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The  Era  of  Excess 


by  Andrew  Sinclair 

W& /i  a  preface  by  RICHARD  HOFSTADTER 

With  Illustrations 

An  Atlantic  Monthly  Press  Book 





Twelve  lines  from  "A  drunkard  cannot  meet  a  cork"  by  Emily 
Dickinson  are  reprinted  by  permission  of  the  President  and  Fel- 
lows of  Harvard  College  and  the  Trustees  of  Amherst  College 
from  The  Poems  of  Emily  Dickinson,  edited  by  Thomas  H, 
Johnson,  Cambridge,  Massachusetts,  The  Belknap  Press  of  Har- 
vard University  Press,  copyright  1951,  1955,  by  the  President 
and  Fellows  of  Harvard  College, 




Published  simultaneously  in  Canada 
hy  Little,  Brown  6  Company  (Canada)  Limited 


To  My  Mother 


A  GOOD  HISTORIAN,  set  loose  on  a  good  subject,  will  trace  out 
the  pattern  not  only  of  his  subject  itself  but  also  of  the  whole  social 
fabric  into  which  it  is  woven.  It  is  so  here  with  Andrew  Sinclair.  His 
foreground  is  the  American  experiment  with  prohibition  —  one  of  the 
most  instructive  episodes  in  our  history  —  and  he  has  given  us  not  only 
the  best  account  of  this  experiment  but  also  one  of  the  most  illumi- 
nating commentaries  on  our  society,  for  he  deals  with  the  ramifications 
of  the  alcohol  problem  on  our  politics  and  religion,  our  law  and  medi- 
cine, our  city  and  country  life,  our  guilts  and  fears,  our  manners  and 

'The  Era  of  Excess"  is  the  characterization  Mr.  Sinclair  gives  to 
the  unhappy  episode  with  which  he  deals;  and  he  has  realized  bril- 
liantly the  implications  of  the  central  term,  "excess/*  He  sees  the 
incredibly  naive  effort  to  fix  a  ban  on  drinking  into  the  Constitution 
itself  as  a  final  assertion  of  the  rural  Protestant  mind  against  the  urban 
and  polyglot  culture  that  had  emerged  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth 
century  and  the  beginning  of  the  twentieth.  This  assertion,  though  it 
flew  in  the  face  of  history  and  human  nature,  was  temporarily  success- 
ful because  it  was  carried  out  by  the  drys  with  major  organizing  gifts 
and  incredible  zeal  and  because  it  was  linked  with  a  passion  for  reform 
that  swept  the  country  in  the  years  before  World  War  I. 

Like  others  who  have  written  on  prohibition,  Mr.  Sinclair  sees  in 
it  a  kind  of  Protestant  revival  which  led  to  a  crusade  against  the  saloon. 
But  he  sees  also,  as  many  have  failed  to  see,  that  this  crusade  became 
a  war  of  extermination  partly  because  the  churches  and  the  saloons 
were  rivals  in  the  same  business  — the  business  of  consolation.  The 
cause  of  prohibition  was  pressed  forward  with  the  unbridled  ruthless- 
ness  of  those  who  are  absolutely  sure  that  their  cause  is  just  and  that 
it  can  be  carried  to  the  point  of  total  victory.  The  prohibitionists  did 
not  mean  to  limit  or  control  the  evils  of  alcohol:  they  meant  to  stamp 
them  out  altogether.  Reformers  who  begin  with  the  determination  to 
stamp  out  sin  usually  end  by  stamping  out  sinners,  and  Mr.  Sinclair  is 
sensitive  to  the  ironies,  sometimes  amusing  but  sometimes  terrible,  to 
which  this  effort  at  total  reform  could  lead.  Before  prohibition  became 
law,  the  prohibitionists  decried  alcohol  as  a  form  of  deadly  poison. 


Viii   /  PREFACE 

After  prohibition  was  law,  they  approved  the  legal  poisoning  of  indus- 
trial alcohol,  knowing  full  well  that  men  would  die  from  drinking  it. 
Excess  had  this  way  of  turning  things  into  their  opposites:  an  amenity 
became  a  crime;  the  imposition  of  controls  led  to  a  loss  of  control;  the 
churches  created  gangsters;  reformers  became  reactionaries;  purifiers 
became  poisoners.  Excess  also  made  it  impossible  for  the  politicians 
to  fulfill  their  customary  function  of  compromising  opposed  interests 
and  mediating  between  extremes.  That  some  men  may  live  by  principle 
is  possible  only  because  others  live  by  compromise.  Excess  destroyed 
this  nice  symbiosis:  it  converted  the  politician  into  a  bogus  man  of 
principle,  a  breed  of  hypocrite  who  voted  one  way  while  he  drank  the 

To  me  one  of  the  freshest  and  most  illuminating  aspects  of  Mr. 
Sinclair's  book  is  his  study  of  the  way  in  which  the  movement  for 
prohibition  mobilized  popular  guilts  and  fears  — an  aspect  of  the 
movement  which  other  historians  have  hardly  done  more  than  touch 
upon.  Prohibition  could  be  made  an  outlet  for  the  troubles  of  every 
cramped  libido.  In  an  earlier  day,  anti-Catholicism  had  served  as  the 
pornography  of  the  puritan:  the  inhibited  mind  had  wallowed  in  tales 
of  errant  priests  and  nuns.  During  the  prohibition  movement  both 
prurience  and  fear  were  exploited  by  those  who  dwelt  on  the  linkage 
of  alcohol  and  sexual  excess,  or  on  the  fear  of  insanity  and  racial 
degeneracy,  even  of  the  racial  self-assertion  of  the  Negro.  Mr.  Sinclair 
has  given  us  a  full  and  instructive  exploration  of  the  medical  and  sexual 
mythology  of  prohibitionism. 

But  Mr.  Sinclair  is  a  humane  historian,  and  he  has  not  written  his 
book  to  ridicule  or  belittle  prohibitionists  or  as  an  ex  parte  plea  for 
the  wets.  He  is  far  from  blind  to  whatever  there  was  of  validity  in  the 
case  of  the  drys.  The  old-time  saloon  —  particularly,  he  believes,  in  the 
rural  areas  and  the  small  towns  — was  often  a  filthy  and  repulsive 
place.  He  observes  that  the  wets  also  responded  to  the  era  of  excess  by 
making  claims  for  the  benefits  of  repeal  as  absurd  as  the  earlier 
promises  of  the  drys.  And,  above  all,  he  is  careful  to  remind  us  that 
alcoholism  today  is  a  serious  medical  and  social  problem.  The  dry 
lobbies  had  saddled  the  country  with  a  vicious  and  ineffective  reform; 
Mr.  Sinclair  concludes  that  the  wet  lobbies  performed  a  similar  if  less 
sweeping  disservice  to  the  country  by  insisting  upon  absolute  repeal, 
and  thus  replacing  overstrained  and  ineffective  controls  with  no  federal 
controls  at  all.  Some  readers  may  quarrel  with  this  and  other  con- 
clusions, but  I  doubt  that  informed  students  of  Americana  will  quarrel 
with  the  judgment  that  he  has  given  us  the  definitive  study  of  prohibi- 
tion for  our  generation. 



Preface    by  Richard  Hofstadter  vii 

Prologue  to  Prohibition  3 

ONE:     The  Roots  of  Prohibition 

1.  God  Made  the  Country  9 

2.  The  Psychology  of  Prohibition  23 

3.  The  Exploited  Terror  36 

4.  The  Churches  against  the  Saloons  63 

5.  The  Politics  of  Reform  83 

6.  Creeping  Barrage  106 

7.  Trimming  for  the  White  House  129 

8.  The  Turncoat  Congress  152 

TWO:     The  Dry  Tree 

9.  Prelude  to  Deluge  173 

10.  The  Toothless  Law  178 

11.  The  Respectable  Crimed  220 

12.  Dry  Defense  242 

13.  Masters  of  Inaction  252 

14.  The  Amphibious  Congress  269 

15.  Last  Victory  285 

THREE:     The  Blight  of  Repeal 

16.  The  Spreading  Change  309 

17.  Jamaicas  of  Remembrance  326 

18.  The  Wet  Counterattack  334 



19.  The  Restive  Congress  350 

20.  Dry  President,  Divided  Commission  361 

21.  The  Fanaticism  of  Repeal  369 

22.  The  Blighted  Roots  400 

Epilogue  to  Prohibition  413 

Acknowledgments  417 

Note  on  Bibliography  419 

Notes  421 

Index  463 


Dry  Logic  17 

Women's  Crusade,  1873  25 

Two  Anti-Saloon  League  Posters  40, 41 

Dry  Terror,  1911  52 

Going  into  Captivity  58 
The  Attitudes  of  Geography: 

The  Third  Prohibition  Wave,  1907  to  1919  66 

Rural  and  Urban  Population,  1910  66 

The  Old  American  Stock,  1910  67 

Prohibition  Churches  versus  Temperance  Churches, 

1916  67 

Driven  Out  of  the  Church  72 

The  Old-Time  City  Saloon  74 

The  Saloon  Doors  78 

Workers'  Saloon  82 

He  Can't  Put  It  Out  114 

The  Foe  in  the  Rear  123 

Volstead  Rules  the  Waves  187 

King  Canute!  199 

A  Moonshine  Still  202 

Bathtub  Gin,  Cagney  Style  204 

Still  Packing  Them  In  213 

De  Facto  Enforcement  217 

Uncle  Sam's  Home-Brew  223 

AlCapone  228 

Wet  Exchange  231 

Searching  for  Hip  Flasks  234 

The  National  Gesture  283 



Hosanna!  305 

The  Hydra-headed  Monster  315 

Easy  Riders  319 

Night  Club  Entertainment  323 

"Here's  How!"  337 

"Beers  Bad  for  Our  Workers"  347 

Fruit  Juices  355 

The  Leaning  Tower  Shows  Signs  of  Collapse  359 

"Don't  Mind  Me,  Go  Right  On  Working"  363 

Law  Enforcement  403 

Rare  before  Prohibition  409 

Common  during  Prohibition  409 


The  Era  of  Excess 

Prologue  to  Prohibition 

When  deplorable  excesses  happen,  I  hear  many  cry, 
"Would  there  were  no  wine!  O  folly!  O  madness!"  Is  it 
the  wine  which  causes  this  abuse?  No.  If  you  say,  "Would 
there  were  no  wine!"  because  of  drunkards,  then  you  must 
say,  going  on  by  degrees,  "Would  there  were  no  night!" 
because  of  thieves,  "Would  there  were  no  light!"  because 
of  informers,  and  "Would  there  were  no  women!"  because 
of  adultery. 


The  Saloon  Bar 

A  bar  to  heaven,  a  door  to  hell  — 
Whoever  named  it,  named  it  well! 
A  bar  to  manliness  and  wealth, 
A  door  to  want  and  broken  health, 
A  bar  to  honor,  pride  and  fame, 
A  door  to  sin  and  grief  and  shame; 
A  bar  to  hope,  a  bar  to  prayer, 
A  door  to  darkness  and  despair, 
A  bar  to  honored,  useful  life, 
A  door  to  brawling,  senseless  strife; 
A  bar  to  all  that's  true  and  brave, 
A  door  to  every  drunkard's  grave, 
A  bar  to  joy  that  home  imparts, 
A  door  to  tears  and  aching  hearts; 
A  bar  to  heaven,  a  door  to  hell  — 
Whoever  named  it,  named  it  well! 

THE  SUCCESS  of  those  who  wanted  to  prohibit  the  liquor  trade  in 
the  United  States  seems  inexplicable  now.  As  Jonathan  Daniels 
wrote  of  his  father,  Josephus,  Woodrow  Wilson's  Secretary  of  the 
Navy,  "I  doubt  that  any  later  generation  will  quite  be  able  to  under- 
stand the  prohibitionists.  I  do  not,  I  do  know  that  my  father  .  .  . 
brought  to  the  prohibition  movement  hope  and  sincerity."1  Yet  it  is  in 



this  capacity  to  inspire  hope  and  sincerity  in  intelligent  men  that  un- 
derstanding of  the  prohibition  movement  lies.  Many  Victorians  felt 
in  all  honesty  that  progress  and  science,  reform  and  learning  were  on 
the  side  of  prohibition.  The  new  and  fashionable  science  of  eugenics, 
developed  by  Sir  Francis  Galton,  seemed  to  point  towards  the  elimina- 
tion of  alcohol  in  order  to  improve  the  race.  The  progressive  movement 
sided  with  the  prohibitionists  in  trying  to  get  rid  of  the  corrupt  city 
machines  and  the  vice  areas  based  on  the  saloons.  Most  medical  re- 
search seemed  to  be  in  favor  of  the  banning  of  liquor  for  the  sake  of 
health  and  hygiene.  The  social  work  carried  out  by  the  settlements  in 
the  slums  found  drink  as  much  an  enemy  as  poverty  and  often  pointed 
to  the  connection  between  the  two  evils.  The  rising  tide  of  women's 
rights  seemed  to  make  prohibition  certain;  a  woman's  vote  was  pre- 
sumed to  be  a  vote  against  the  saloon.  Even  before  the  Great  War 
identified  beer  drinkers  with  Germans  and  the  Kaiser,  the  consumer  of 
alcohol  appeared  a  reactionary.  His  selfish  imbibing  was  a  last  protest 
against  progress,  a  deliberate  effort  to  weaken  his  children  and  deny 
the  future. 

The  success  of  the  prohibitionists  is,  in  fact,  easier  to  understand 
than  their  defeat  would  have  been.  For  they  had  control  of  the  best 
part  of  the  communications  of  the  time.  They  had  organization,  money, 
and  a  purpose.  The  leaders  of  opinion  were  often  on  their  side.  They 
had  been  indoctrinating  the  young  for  thirty  years  in  the  public  schools 
and  through  their  mothers.  History,  optimism,  and  improvement  were 
their  supporters.  With  hope  and  sincerity,  the  prohibitionists  looked 
forward  to  a  world  free  from  alcohol  and,  by  that  magic  panacea,  free 
also  from  want  and  crime  and  sin,  a  sort  of  millennial  Kansas  afloat  on 
a  nirvana  of  pure  water. 

The  prohibitionists  had  no  doubt  that  they  would  win  their  battle 
against  the  demon  drink.  Not  only  was  God  behind  them,  but  also  his- 
tory. By  the  time  of  the  Civil  War,  thirteen  states  had  tried  prohibition 
laws.  Although  this  number  shrank  to  three  after  the  war,  five  more 
states  joined  their  ranks  after  1880.  Again  the  second  wave  of  prohibi- 
tion receded  until  only  three  states  remained,  but  the  third  wave  en- 
gulfed the  nation.  The  foundation  of  the  Woman's  Christian  Temper- 
ance Union  and  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  before  the  close  of  the 
nineteenth  century  gave  the  prohibitionists  a  disciplined  army,  ready 
to  exploit  politics  and  the  American  people  in  the  interests  of  their 
chosen  reform.  The  refusal  of  the  liquor  trade  to  regulate  the  saloons 
of  its  own  accord  and  the  national  psychology  created  by  the  First 
World  War  were  sufficient  to  give  victory  to  the  prohibitionists.  From 
January  16, 1920,  until  December  5,  1933,  a  period  of  nearly  fourteen 
years,  the  American  people  were  forbidden  by  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 


ment  of  their  own  Constitution  to  manufacture,  sell,  or  transport  any 
intoxicating  liquor.  Although  no  one  was  forbidden  to  buy  or  drink 
intoxicating  liquor,  the  Volstead  Act,  passed  by  Congress  to  enforce 
the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  tried  to  prevent  the  illegal  trade  in  liquor. 
It  failed,  and  national  prohibition  also  failed.  The  origins,  politics,  les- 
sons, and  results  of  that  failure  are  the  matter  of  this  book. 

The  questions  which  occupied  the  American  people  in  the  first  three 
decades  of  this  century  were  not  the  questions  which  occupied  their 
Presidents.  While  the  White  House  was  concerned  with  trusts  and^ 
taxation  and  tariffs  and  foreign  affairs,  the  people  worried  over  pro- 
hibition and  Romanism  and  fundamentalism  and  immigration  and  the 
growing  power  of  the  cities  of  the  United  States.  These  worries  lay  un- 
der the  surface  of  all  political  conflicts.  For  the  old  America  of  the  vil- 
lages and  farms  distrusted  the  new  America  of  the  urban  masses.  Pro- 
hibition was  the  final  victory  of  the  defenders  of  the  American  past. 
On  the  rock  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  village  America  made  its 
last  stand.  As  Walter  Lippmann  commented  in  1927: 

The  evil  which  the  old-fashioned  preachers  ascribe  to  the  Pope,  to 
Babylon,  to  atheists,  and  to  the  devil,  is  simply  the  new  urban  civiliza- 
tion, with  its  irresistible  scientific  and  economic  and  mass  power.  The 
Pope,  the  devil,  jazz,  the  bootleggers,  are  a  mythology  which  expresses 
symbolically  the  impact  of  a  vast  and  dreaded  social  change.  The 
change  is  real  enough.  .  .  .  The  defense  of  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment has,  therefore,  become  much  more  than  a  mere  question  of  regu- 
lating the  liquor  traffic.  It  involves  a  test  of  strength  between  social  . 
orders,  and  when  that  test  is  concluded,  and  if,  as  seems  probable, 
the  Amendment  breaks  down,  the  fall  will  bring  down  with  it  the 
dominion  of  the  older  civilization.  The  Eighteenth  Amendment  is  the 
rock  on  which  the  evangelical  church  militant  is  founded,  and  with 
it  are  involved  a  whole  way  of  life  and  an  ancient  tradition.  The  over- 
coming of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  would  mean  the  emergence  of 
the  cities  as  the  dominant  force  in  America,  dominant  politically  and 
socially  as  they  are  already  dominant  economically.2 

The  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  repealed  by  the  Twenty-first.  The 
old  order  of  the  country  gave  way  to  the  new  order  of  the  cities.  Rural 
morality  was  replaced  by  urban  morality,  rural  voices  by  urban  voices, 
rural  votes  by  urban  votes.  A  novel  culture  of  skyscrapers  and  suburbs 
grew  up  to  oust  the  civilization  of  the  general  store  and  Main  Street. 
A  technological  revolution  broadcast  a  common  culture  over  the  vari- 
ous folkways  of  the  land.  It  is  only  in  context  of  this  immense  social 
change,  the  metamorphosis  of  Abraham  Lincoln's  America  into  the 
America  of  Franklin  Roosevelt,  that  the  phenomenon  of  national  pro- 
hibition can  be  seen  and  understood.  It  was  a  part  of  the  whole  proc- 


ess,  the  last  hope  of  the  declining  village.  It  was  less  of  a  farce  than  a 
tragedy,  less  of  a  mistake  than  a  proof  of  changing  times.  The  right  of 
the  new  to  their  novelties  is  no  more  sacred  than  the  right  of  the  old  to 
their  nostalgias.  The  great  error  was,  as  H.  G.  Wells  said,  the  "crown- 
ing silliness"  of  writing  a  liquor  law  into  the  national  Constitution. 

Note  on  Vocabulary 

Prohibition  seems  so  long  past  that  even  its  vocabulary  has  largely  disappeared. 
In  this  study,  various  terms  are  used  which  were  once  current.  They  are  defined 

Jdky  Cooker 

Ardent  Spirits,  John  Barley- 
corn, Rum 

Blind  Pi'g,  Blind  Tiger 

Bootleg,  Booze,  Canned  Heat, 
Home-Brew,  Hooch,  Moon- 
shine, Shine,  Smoke 

Dispensary  System 


High-License  System 

Local  Option 


Rum  Row 

A  distiller  of  homemade  alcohol 
Nineteenth-century  terms  for  all  hard  liquor 

An  unlicensed  saloon 

Various  types  of  illegal  liquor  made  before, 
during,  and  after  national  prohibition 

A  maker  and  distributor  of  bootleg  liquor 

The  sale  of  liquor  through  state-owned  retail 
liquor  stores 

A  supporter  of  prohibition 

A  policy  of  charging  the  owners  of  saloons 
a  large  annual  tax  in  order  to  regulate  the 
number  of  saloons 

A  robber  of  a  bootlegger 

An  election  in  which  communities  could  vote 
to  close  up  the  saloons  within  their  area 

A  change  in  the  wording  of  the  Volstead  Act 
to  allow  the  manufacture  and  sale  of  light 
wines  and  beer 

The  banning  by  statutory  or  constitutional  law 
of  the  saloons  and /or  of  the  liquor  trade  and/ 
or  of  all  liquor;  also  a  psychological  attitude 
favoring  legal  coercion  on  moral  grounds 

The  repeal  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  by 
another  amendment  to  the  Constitution 

A  line  of  liquor  ships  outside  United  States 
territorial  waters 

A  legal  drinking  place  between  the  Civil  War 
and  the  Volstead  Act 

An  illegal  drinking  place  during  the  period  of 
national  prohibition 

An  opponent  of  prohibition 



The  Roots  of  Prohibition 



God  Made  the  Country 

In  the  last  fifty  years  a  vast  change  has  taken  place  in 
the  lives  of  our  people.  A  revolution  has  in  fact  taken 
place.  The  coming  of  industrialism,  attended  by  all  the  roar 
and  rattle  of  affairs,  the  shrill  cries  of  millions  of  new 
voices  that  have  come  among  us  from  over  seas,  the  going 
and  coming  of  trains,  the  growth  of  cities,  the  building  of 
the  interurban  car  lines  that  weave  in  and  out  of  towns  and 
past  farmhouses,  and  now  in  these  later  days  the  coming  of 
the  automobiles  has  worked  a  tremendous  change  in  the 
lives  and  in  the  habits  of  thought  of  our  people  of  Mid- 
America.  Books,  badly  imagined  "and  written  though  they 
may  be  in  the  hurry  of  our  times,  are  in  every  household, 
magazines  circulate  by  the  millions  of  copies,  newspapers 
are  everywhere.  In  our  day  a  fanner  standing  by  the  stove 
in  the  store  of  his  village  has  his  mind  filled  to  overflowing 
with  the  words  of  other  men.  The  newspapers  and  the 
magazines  have  pumped  him  full.  Much  of  the  old  brutal 
ignorance  that  had  in  it  also  a  kind  of  beautiful  childlike 
innocence  is  gone  forever.  The  farmer  by  the  stove  is 
brother  to  the  men  of  the  cities,  and  if  you  listen  you  will 
find  him  talking  as  glibly  and  as  senselessly  as  the  best 
city  man  of  us  all. 

Winesburg,  Ohio,  1919 

The  vices  of  the  cities  have  been  the  undoing  of  past 
empires  and  civilizations.  It  has  been  at  the  point  where 
the  urban  population  outnumbers  the  rural  people  that 
wrecked  Republics  have  gone  down.  There  the  vices  of 
luxury  have  centered  and  eaten  out  the  heart  of  the  patriot- 
ism of  the  people,  making  them  the  easy  victims  of  every 
enemy.  The  peril  of  this  Republic  likewise  is  now  clearly 
seen  to  be  in  her  cities.  There  is  no  greater  menace  to 
democratic  institutions  than  the  great  segregation  of  an 
element  which  gathers  its  ideas  of  patriotism  and  citizenship 
from  the  low  grogshop  and  which  has  proved  its  enmity 
to  organized  civil  government.  Already  some  of  our  cities 
are  well-nigh  submerged  with  this  unpatriotic  element, 
which  is  manipulated  by  the  still  baser  element  engaged 
in  the  un-American  drink  traffic  and  by  the  kind  of  politician 
the  saloon  creates.  The  saloon  stands  for  the  worst  in 


10   /   THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

political  life.  All  who  stand  for  the  best  must  be  aggres- 
sively against  it.  If  our  Republic  is  to  be  saved  the  liquor 
traffic  must  be  destroyed. 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  Yearbook,  1914 

THE  FIRST  American  colonists  brought  over  the  doctrine  that  coun- 
try and  village  life  were  good,  while  city  life  was  wicked.  The  sturdy 
yeoman  farmer  was  considered  to  be  the  backbone  of  England,  the 
essential  fodder  of  her  army.  The  creeping  enclosures  which  displaced 
the  farmers  from  the  earth  of  England  were  evil,  as  were  the  land 
speculators  and  absentee  owners,  corrupted  by  the  luxuries  of  the 
Court  and  of  the  great  wen,  London.  The  city  was  the  home  of  vice, 
and  the  royal  palace  hid  covert  Popery.  It  was  to  flee  these  persecut- 
ing enemies  that  the  Mat/flower  crossed  the  first  frontier,  the  Atlantic 

In  the  new  colonies,  however,  the  courts  and  cities  grew  again.  They 
were  the  center  of  British  government,  garrisoned  by  British  troops, 
filled  with  grogshops  and  brothels.  The  aristocrats  of  America  lived 
there.  But  nine  out  of  ten  Americans  lived  on  the  farms,  and  their 
brief  incursions  into  the  cities  only  confirmed  their  prejudice  against 
the  urban  Satan.  When  the  American  Revolution  broke  out,  the  battle 
lines  quickly  set  themselves  up  along  the  division  of  piedmont  and 
tidewater,  except  in  New  England,  where  there  was  a  strong  sense  of 
community  between  town  and  country.  The  British  could  hold  the  ports 
and  major  cities.  Tories  who  fled  there  would  find  protection.  Mean- 
while, the  colonists  held  the  back  country,  and  could  gain  victories 
whenever  the  British  ventured  out  of  the  cities.  Even  if  the  American 
colonists  won  the  war  because  of  the  intervention  of  the  French  fleet, 
the  surrender  of  Yorktown  still  seemed  to  be  more  the  triumph  of  the 
farmer  than  of  the  seaman. 

The  new  Constitution  carefully  protected  the  rights  of  the  country. 
The  composition  of  the  Senate  settled  to  this  day  the  unfair  representa- 
tion of  the  country  at  the  expense  of  the  city.  The  new  capitals  of  the 
state  governments  were  founded  far  from  urban  mob  and  power,  in 
isolated  villages,  such  as  Albany  or  Harrisburg.  And  American  writers, 
politicians,  and  philosophers,  secure  in  the  comfort  of  urban  life,  cre- 
ated a  eulogy  of  rural  virtues  which  was  accepted  across  the  length 
and  breadth  of  America  as  the  truth,  even  when  industrial  might  and 
agrarian  depression  had  turned  the  flattery  into  a  falsehood. 

The  first  of  the  wiajor  revolutions  of  modern  times  was  the  agrarian. 


It  preceded  the  Industrial  Revolution.  The  urban  masses  which  manned 
the  factories  could  not  have  been  fed  without  improved  methods  of 
agriculture.  Thus  the  radicals  and  intellectuals  of  the  eighteenth  cen- 
tury were  interested  in  farming  as  the  newest  and  most  progressive  of 
the  sciences.  Benjamin  Franklin  and  the  American  Philosophical  So- 
ciety, George  Washington  and  Thomas  Jefferson  all  proselytized  the 
farming  discoveries  of  Arthur  Young  and  Lord  Townshend.  Agri- 
cultural societies,  fairs,  and  journals  sprang  up  across  America.  To  be  a 
farmer  at  the  time  was  to  be  in  the  forefront  of  science  and  progress.  It 
was  also  to  be  better  than  the  city  dweller. 

The  French  philosophes  had  made  fashionable  the  doctrine  that 
man's  nature  was  good  although  the  corruption  of  society  had  turned 
him  evil.  Therefore,  the  man  closest  to  nature  was  the  least  corrupt. 
He  was  freer  than  the  townsman  because  he  was  economically  inde- 
pendent, and  more  important  because  his  toil  satisfied  man's  first  need, 
the  need  for  food.  Jefferson  put  forward  this  creed  clearly  in  his  Notes 
on  Virginia. 

Those  who  labor  in  the  earth  are  the  chosen  people  of  God,  if  ever 
He  had  a  chosen  people,  whose  breasts  He  has  made  His  peculiar 
deposit  for  substantial  and  genuine  virtue.  It  is  the  focus  in  which  He 
keeps  alive  that  sacred  fire,  which  otherwise  might  escape  from  the 
face  of  the  earth.  Corruption  of  morals  in  the  mass  of  cultivators  is  a 
phenomenon  of  which  no  age  nor  nation  has  furnished  an  example.1 

The  radical  intellectuals  of  nineteenth-century  Europe  turned  to 
praise  the  machine  rather  than  the  plow.  Karl  Marx  approved  of  the 
conquest  of  the  country  by  the  bourgeois  cities,  and  the  rescue  of  the 
villagers  of  Europe  "from  the  seclusion  and  ignorance  of  rural  life."2 
But  America  remained  largely  an  agricultural  nation.  Politicians  and 
novelists  were  quick  to  praise  the  majority  of  the  American  people. 
Nativity  in  a  log  cabin  was  considered  to  be  part  of  the  availability  of 
Presidents.  When  a  candidate  for  the  White  House  did  not  have  the 
necessary  uncivilized  background,  such  as  General  William  Henry 
Harrison  in  1840,  his  party  manufactured  a  rude  childhood  for  him. 
Meanwhile,  a  long  line  of  writers  from  James  Fenimore  Cooper  to  Wil- 
liam Dean  Howells  hymned  the  Eden  of  the  wilderness  and  the 
Canaan  of  the  village.  Moreover,  Mark  Twain  made  fun  of  Hannibal, 
Missouri,  only  to  show  his  love  for  the  place.  Not  until  the  end  of  the 
century  and  the  publication  of  Edgar  Watson  Howe's  The  Story  of  a 
Country  Town  and  of  Hamlin  Garland's  Main-Travelled  Roads  was 
there  a  serious  effort  to  picture  the  bleakness  and  squalor  of  life  on  the 
farm  and  frontier.  Indeed,  these  two  books  were  viciously  attacked  by 
the  literary  critics,  who  were  deceived  by  the  Western  myth  into  think- 


ing  that  the  farmer's  life  was  a  mixture  of  cornhusking,  roast  pork,  and 
contented  cows.  Garland  pointed  out  that  fanners  hated  milking  and 
hogs,  and  that  their  most  common  neighbors  were  army  worms,  flies, 
mosquitoes,  heat,  and  the  smell  of  manure.  Those  who  actually  lived 
in  the  prairies  supported  him.  One  woman  wrote,  "You  are  entirely 
right  about  the  loneliness,  the  stagnation,  the  hardship.  We  are  sick  of 
lies.  Give  the  world  the  truth/'3  Yet  even  Garland  ended  his  life  the 
victim  of  the  lies  which  he  had  tried  to  correct,  writing  sugary  flatter- 
ies of  farm  life  for  urban  magazines. 

As  Sinclair  Lewis  said  in  his  acceptance  speech  before  the  Nobel 
Prize  committee,  it  was  an  "American  tragedy  that  in  our  land  of  free- 
dom, men  like  Garland,  who  first  blast  the  roads  to  freedom,  become 
themselves  the  most  bound/'  It  was  another  American  tragedy  that  the 
cities,  made  by  men,  first  fostered  and  then  destroyed  the  myth  that 
God  had  made  the  country. 


THE  FRONTIER  was  the  American  dream.  And  dreams  are  not  seen  in 
their  everyday  dreariness  and  dullness.  The  frontiersmen  themselves 
were  too  preoccupied  with  survival  to  report  their  disillusion.  They 
needed,  too,  the  justification  of  their  own  virtue  to  make  their  drudg- 
ery and  hardship  bearable.  They  believed  that  large  profits  and  the 
good  life  were  to  be  found  in  the  country;  and  if  they  did  not  find 
these  things  in  one  piece  of  country,  they  must  move  their  wagons  to 
another,  not  back  to  the  evil  cities,  which  could  only  offer  them  jobs 
as  unskilled  workers.  "A  mighty  spreading  and  shifting"  went  on  all 
over  the  West.4  Jefferson  had  forecast  that  the  small  fanner  would  take 
a  thousand  years  to  settle  the  land  as  far  as  the  Pacific.  A  hundred 
years  was  too  little  for  the  restless  frontiersman,  searching  endlessly 
for  a  perfection  in  nature  that  was  never  there,  and  for  speculative 
profits  in  land  which  often  he  did  not  bother  to  cultivate  properly.  For 
the  farmer  was  a  businessman  first  and  foremost,  even  if  his  toil  was 
held  to  be  particularly  blessed  by  God. 

The  only  news  from  the  West  that  reached  the  cities  was  exciting. 
Circuses  and  Buffalo  Bill  Cody  and  the  heroic  tales  of  the  Methodist  and 
Baptist  circuit  riders  who  rode  with  the  Gospel  in  their  saddlebags  — 
all  these  nleant  a  land  of  adventure.5  The  picture  was  gilded  by  the 
reports  of  railroad  companies  and  shipping  lines,  land  speculators  and 
small-town  boomers,  who  advertised  easy  harvests  and  quick  profits 
and  free  land.  Agricultural  journals  and  local  newspapers  frantically 
painted  the  Western  skies  into  the  colors  of  a  peacock's  tail  to  keep  old 
settlers  where  they  were  and  to  attract  fresh  ones.  For  if  a  small  town 

GOD    MADE    THE    COUNTRY/   13 

did  not  grow,  it  was  abandoned;  Iowa,  in  less  than  a  hundred  years, 
held  more  than  two  thousand  deserted  settlements.  Thus  the  actual 
settlers  of  the  West  were  forced  to  gild  the  country  myth  still  more  to 
attract  the  new  peasant  immigrants  from  Germany  and  Ireland  and 
Scandinavia.6  It  was  enough  to  lure  immigrants  out  West.  They  usually 
came  with  too  little  money  to  be  able  to  afford  the  return  fare.  In  fact, 
colorful  lying  became  so  much  a  part  of  the  frontier  that  it  took  on  the 
trappings  of  virtue.  In  Texas  to  this  day,  exaggeration  in  the  interest  of 
the  state  is  considered  to  be  a  truer  version  of  the  truth.  A  roving 
Texan  is  his  country's  ambassador,  sent  to  lie  abroad. 

The  West  was  peopled  rapidly  by  a  race  of  farmers  and  speculators 
and  refugees.  If  the  farmers'  dream  of  the  frontier  turned  sour,  the 
fact  of  their  flight  from  Europe  and  the  Eastern  cities  still  stayed  with 
them.  Their  hope  in  Western  land  and  easy  money  was  often  killed  by 
the  sufferings  inflicted  by  nature,  but  their  hatred  of  the  past  only 
grew.  For  the  settlers  were  the  disinherited  of  the  cities,  those  dis- 
owned by  urban  civilization,  displaced  by  industry.  They  fled  to  an 
agricultural  myth  which  told  them  that  their  exclusion  was  a  successful 
repudiation  of  wealth  and  aristocracy  and  luxury.  Fanners  were  the 
only  true  democrats.  They  were  the  representatives  of  the  best  in  the 
American  tradition.  The  cities  held  the  idle  rich  and  the  owners  of 
mortgages  and  the  dregs  of  Europe.  When  William  Jennings  Bryan  de- 
nounced the  East  as  "the  enemy's  country,"  he  voiced  a  rural  prejudice 
older  than  the  Declaration  of  Independence. 

Both  the  hardness  of  existence  and  the  simple  religion  brought  to 
the  West  by  the  Baptist  and  Methodist  missionaries  buttressed  the 
fears  of  the  settlers.  The  world  around  them  was  a  world  of  simple 
divisions,  a  world  of  land  and  sky,  stone  and  earth,  drought  and  rain, 
hail  and  calm,  night  and  day.  The  Manichaeanism  of  fundamental  reli- 
gion, with  its  clear-cut  right  and  wrong,  and  good  and  evil,  fitted  into 
a  landscape  of  hard  and  infinite  definitions.  In  the  midst  of  suffering 
and  toil  and  frequent  death,  the  pastoral  religion  and  patriarchal  law 
of  the  Old  Testament  peculiarly  suited  the  pioneers.  The  ritualistic 
faiths  of  Episcopalianism  and  Judaism  and  Roman  Catholicism,  with 
their  ceremonies  and  ranks,  seemed  only  to  confirm  the  Westerner's 
view  of  the  oppressive  cities.  But  the  simple  creeds  of  Methodism, 
Baptism,  Presbyterianism,  and  Congregationalism,  with  their  emphasis 
on  individual  toil  and  the  Bible  and  hell  and  hope  of  heaven,  seemed 
to  be  the  rough  and  democratic  faiths  needed  in  the  mountains  and 
prairies  of  the  West. 

Willa  Gather,  in  a  series  of  novels,  described  the  hard  truth  of  the 
frontier.  She  spoke  of  that  Nebraska  which  produced  the  great  flatterer 
of  the  West  and  champion  of  prohibition,  William  Jennings  Bryan.  In 

14   /   THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

her  O  Pioneers!  she  wrote  of  the  sad  wilderness  and  isolation  which 
drove  the  settlers  into  harsh  fundamentalism.  A  boy  was  leaving  the 
small  town  of  Hanover,  Nebraska,  with  his  family  on  a  horse-drawn 

The  little  town  behind  them  had  vanished  as  if  it  had  never  been, 
had  fallen  behind  the  swell  of  the  prairie,  and  the  stern  frozen  country 
received  them  into  its  bosom.  The  homesteads  were  few  and  far 
apart;  here  and  there  a  windmill  gaunt  against  the  sky,  a  sod  house 
crouching  in  a  hollow.  But  the  great  fact  was  the  land  itself,  which 
seemed  to  overwhelm  the  little  beginnings  of 'human  society  that 
struggled  in  its  somber  wastes.  It  was  from  facing  this  vast  hardness 
that  the  boy's  mouth  had  become  so  bitter;  because  he  felt  that  men 
were  too  weak  to  make  any  mark  here,  that  the  land  wanted  to  be 
let  alone,  to  preserve  its  own  fierce  strength,  its  peculiar,  savage  kind 
of  beauty,  its  uninterrupted  mournfulness.7 

Suffering  bred  political  radicalism  in  the  great  plains  of  the  West.8 
The  discontent  born  of  poverty  and  unending  labor  forged  the  farmers' 
organizations  of  protest,  the  Grange  and  the  Farmers'  Alliance,  the 
Populist  movement,  the  Farmers*  Union  and  the  Non-Partisan  League.0 
The  ideology  of  these  movements  was  a  peculiar  mixture  of  reaction, 
xenophobia,  and  progressiveness.  But  above  all,  this  ideology  was  set 
in  terms  of  black  and  white.  In  the  days  of  Jackson,  it  was  the  Bank  of 
the  United  States  which  was  held  solely  responsible  for  the  slump  in 
the  West.  Later  the  Jews,  the  Roman  Catholics,  Wai!  Street,  gold,  the 
immigrants,  the  railroads,  the  trusts,  the  Huns,  and  the  Reds  all  be- 
came the  necessary  scapegoats  for  Western  ills.  The  rural  radicals 
rarely  admitted  the  guilty  truth,  that  their  own  plundering  of  the  land 
and  heavy  borrowing  from  the  banks  of  the  East  had  caused  many  of 
the  sufferings  which  they  sought  to  blame  on  others. 

There  is  a  traditional  theory  of  conspiracy  at  the  grass  roots  of 
American  politics.0  It  was  at  first  the  product  of  geography  and  hard- 
ship and  religion.  Later,  when  fanning  in  the  prairies  became  depend- 
ent on  urban  and  international  markets  after  1850,  the  money  power  of 
the  East  grew  into  a  real  enemy,  capable  of  mining  farmers  surely  and 
inexorably.  Commercialization,  specialization,  business  methods,  new 
machinery,  improved  communications,  the  mail-order  catalogues  called 
"wishing  books,"  all  destroyed  the  self-sufficiency  of  farm  and  village 
and  made  them  dependent  on  the  wicked  city.  Bryan's  campaign  for 
free  silver  in  the  presidential  election  of  1896  was  less  an  economic 

*  Strangely  enough,  the  farm  movements  were  led  by  city  reformers.  Not  one  of 
the  seven  founders  of  the  Grange  was  a  farmer  by  occupation  for  more  than  a 
short  period  of  his  life.  Between  1892  and  1932,  not  a  single  fanner  was  elected 
to  Congress.  In  fact,  the  leaders  of  rural  reform  movements  often  knew  too  little 
of  rural  reality  to  disbelieve  the  myths  which  inspired  the  movements. 

GOD    MADE    THE    COUNTRY/   15 

matter  than  an  expression  of  the  rural  hatred  of  Eastern  financiers,  who 
waxed  fat  under  the  mysterious  protection  of  the  devilish  gold  standard. 

It  was  in  this  atmosphere  of  struggle  against  unyielding  soil  and  of 
crusade  against  Eastern  capital  that  the  prohibition  agitators  flour- 
ished. For  they  presented  the  fight  of  God  against  the  saloon  in  the 
simple  terms  of  right  and  wrong.  Drunkenness  was  a  prevalent  and 
dangerous  vice  of  the  frontier.  Men  who  drank  frequently  lost  ground 
in  the  battle  against  the  elements.  An  isolated  farmer  who  rode  twenty 
miles  to  the  nearest  saloon  might  die  of  exposure  if  fatigue  made  him 
sleep  during  his  return.  The  lumber  camps  and  mining  towns  of  the 
Far  West  were  packed  with  saloons  and  brothels,  crooks  and  whores, 
who  kept  the  woodsmen  and  miners  in  a  state  of  continual  poverty  and 
fleeced  any  stray  countryman  who  came  their  way.  Farmers'  wives, 
who  had  to  remain  in  isolation  and  terror  on  the  farm  with  small  chil- 
dren, grew  to  hate  the  saloons,  which  kept  their  husbands  in  the  vil- 
feges  and  took  away  their  money.  There  was  also  envy  in  their  hatred. 
For  they  had  no  relief  from  the  endless  chores  of  farm  women:  tailoring, 
sewing,  cleaning,  cooking,  nursing,  grinding,  shifting  to  make  a  home 
where  no  homes  were.10  They  envied  their  husbands'  brief  escape  into 
alcohol  and  listened  to  the  ministers  who  told  them  how  to  shut  down 
the  saloons,  which  took  their  men  away. 

The  women  on  the  farms  also  wanted  decency.  For  an  accepted 
standard  of  decency  was  their  only  protection  against  the  rough  male 
world.  The  brave  efforts  towards  some  style  in  living,  the  piano  in  the 
log  cabin,  the  magazine  illustrations  on  the  shanty  wall,  the  curtains  of 
sacking  —  all  these  represented  a  fumbling  for  a  civilized  way  of  life 
that  asks  for  understanding,  not  for  derision.  Moreover,  there  was  a 
surplus  of  women  on  many  farms.  The  males  died  off  more  quickly 
than  the  females.  A  prosperous  farmer  often  found  himself  with  too 
many  daughters,  whose  smattering  of  education  made  it  impossible  for 
them  to  marry  the  illiterate  and  uncouth  farm  laborers.  These  spinsters 
became  that  American  phenomenon,  the  "schoolmarms"  of  the  fron- 
tier. In  Europe,  secondary  education  remained  in  the  hands  of  men;  in 
America,  women  took  over  the  country  schools  and  the  minds  of  the 
children.  The  Census  of  1900  showed  that,  even  with  the  influence  of  the 
large  city  of  Chicago,  three  out  of  every  four  teachers  in  Illinois  were 
women.  Other  professions  were  closed  to  them. 

Thus  the  education  on  the  subject  of  alcohol  that  a  respectable 
country  child  received  was  usually  in  favor  of  prohibition.  His  mother, 
his  female  schoolteacher,  and  his  minister  would  warn  him  against  the 
saloon.  Even  if  the  rural  proletariat,  the  hired  hands,  the  loafers,  the 
livery  stablemen,  the  barbers,  and  the  drunkards  encouraged  an  occa- 
sional tipple,  no  country  lad  could  have  a  drink  without  feeling  sinful. 


The  progressive  Brand  Whitlock  noticed  in  his  Ohio  village  that  "if 
men  of  the  more  respectable  sort  took  a  drink,  they  did  it  with  a  sense 
of  wrong-doing  that  gave  it  a  spice  of  adventure,  and  an  invitation  to 
indulge  was  generally  accompanied  by  a  half-humorous,  half-guilty 
kind  of  wink."11  In  fact,  even  horror  could  be  instilled  by  careful  in- 
doctrination. James  M.  Cox,  who  was  nominated  for  the  presidency  by 
the  wets  in  the  Democratic  convention  of  1920,  wrote  that  he  had 
never  even  dared  to  look  into  the  village  saloon.  He  was  taught  to  be- 
lieve that  it  was  "a  den  of  the  devil."  It  remained  so  loathly  in  his  mind 
that  when  he  became  Governor  of  Ohio,  he  had  the  building  con- 
demned as  a  fire  menace  and  torn  down  by  the  state  marshal.12 

For  the  village  saloons  were  terrible  places.  They  were  little  better 
than  shacks,  containing  a  bar,  a  brass  rail,  liquor  bottles,  cigars,  a  few 
tables  and  chairs,  a  floor  covered  with  sawdust  and  chewed  tobacco, 
and  an  array  of  spittoons.  They  sold  bad,  cheap  liquor,  which  was  not 
protected  by  a  brand  name.  Such  local  disorder  and  crime  as  there  was 
usually  began  in  the  saloons.  Fabian  Franklin,  no  friend  of  prohibition, 
conceded  that  the  village  grogshop  and  the  bar  of  the  small-town  hotel 
presented  little  but  the  gross  and  degraded  aspect  of  drinking.13  Farm- 
ers, who  had  not  seen  the  superior  saloons  in  large  cities,  would  natu- 
rally support  prohibition  to  rid  themselves  of  these  country  cesspools. 

In  a  village  society,  where  everybody  knew  the  business  of  every- 
body else  and  called  it  neighborliness,  the  saloon  became  the  local 
devil  No  one  could  drink  there  without  being  found  out.  No  fight 
could  start  there  without  being  reported.  The  chief  "theater"  of  the 
year,  the  revival  meeting,  denounced  the  place  as  the  entrance  to  a 
future  life  of  fire  and  brimstone.14  The  saloonkeeper  himself  was  the 
outcast  of  country  society.  Sherwood  Anderson  recorded  of  his  boy- 
hood that  the  saloonkeeper,  who  lived  on  his  street  in  the  Ohio  village 
of  Clyde,  walked  silently  with  bent  head.  His  wife  and  child  were 
seldom  seen.  They  lived  an  isolated  life.  "Could  it  have  been  that  the 
saloon  keeper,  his  wife  and  child,  were  socially  ostracized  because  of 
the  business  in  which  he  was  engaged?  It  was  an  age  of  temperance 
societies  and  there  were  two  churches  on  our  street.  To  sell  liquor,  to 
own  a  saloon,  was  to  be,  I  am  sure,  the  devil's  servant/'15 

In  this  culture  bound  together  by  suspicion  and  hardship,  labor  and 
earth,  the  fundamentalist  crusade  against  alcohol  was  highly  success- 
ful. It  suited  the  direct  judgment  of  the  faithful.  The  man  who  was  not 
for  abolition  of  the  saloon  must  be  "a  despicable  Minion  of  the  Rum 
Power  and  a  Tool  of  Satan/'10  Bryan  spoke  for  a  whole  stereotype 
when  he  pleaded  in  1910  for  a  law  allowing  rural  counties  in  Nebraska 
to  close  their  local  saloons  by  vote.  "County  option  is  not  only  expedi- 
ent, but  it  is  right.  This  is  a  moral  question.  There  is  but  one  side  to  a 

THE  FIRST  DROP.         .     ,  ..   .,.  , 

"Come  in  and  take  a  tfrop."  The  first  4&P  M,  to  Qffher  drops.  He.  dropped  his 
position,  he  dropped  his  respectability,  le  droppm;  m  fortune,  he  dropped  his  friends,  he 
dropped  finally  all  his  prospects  in  &Js  Kfe^ahdjtis^  hopes  for  eternity;  and  then  came 
the  last  drop  on  the  gallows,  RwAMM 



Brown  Brothers  Photographers 

moral  question.  Which  do  you  take?"17  By  this  simplification,  any  man 
who  opposed  any  dry  measure  necessarily  supported  drunkenness  and 
vice.  There  was  no  room  for  the  moderate  in  such  a  clear-cut  world. 
Bryan  took  the  argument  to  its  apogee  in  opposition  to  a  wet  plank  at 
the  Democratic  convention  of  1920,  when  he  asked  his  famous  ques- 
tions: "If  you  cannot  get  alcohol  enough  to  make  you  drunk,  why  do 
you  want  alcohol  at  all?  Why  not  cut  it  altogether  and  go  on  about 
your  business?"18  The  questions  were  rhetorical.  Like  the  jesting  Pilate, 
Bryan  did  not  stay  for  an  answer. 

Not  all  of  those  who  lived  in  the  West  supported  prohibition.  In  the 
early  days  of  the  frontier,  whisky  was  the  most  portable  form  of  grain 
and  served  as  currency  in  many  parts.  The  Kentucky  distillers  rebelled 
again  the  United  States  government  in  the  eighteenth  century  because 
of  the  liquor  tax  and  in  the  twentieth  because  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment.  Whisky  was  their  only  source  of  income  when  crops 
failed  or  soil  grew  barren,  as  well  as  being  necessary  for  health  and 
"killing  the  bugs"  in  river  water.19  Social  gatherings  on  the  frontier 
traditionally  demanded  hard  cider  at  the  least;  it  was  carefully  ex- 
empted from  the  provisions  of  the  Volstead  Act.  In  the  days  of  the  fa- 
mous flatboats  on  the  Ohio  River,  an  open  keg  of  raw  spirits  and  a 
dipper  were  left  on  each  landing  stage.  Drunkenness  was  by  far  the 


most  common  cause  for  discipline  in  the  frontier  churches,  for  the 
abundance  of  liquor  made  a  large  section  of  pioneer  society  debauched 
and  whisky-sodden  in  their  land  of  "sinful  liberty/'20  The  later  immi- 
grants to  the  West,  the  Germans  and  the  Irish,  the  Italians  and  Slavic 
peoples,  saw  no  reason  to  give  up  their  traditional  drinking  habits.  In 
fact,  the  severity  of  prohibition  sentiment  in  the  West  seems  to  have 
been  the  result  of  the  widespread  and  continual  drinking  there.  Mod- 
eration was  never  the  habit  of  the  pioneers.  They  either  escaped  from 
virtue  through  swinging  doors  or  embraced  it  at  the  altar. 

The  extremity  of  their  life  forced  the  Westerners  to  extreme  solu- 
tions. Whether  an  action  was  good  or  bad  mattered  less  than  that  it 
should  be  certain  and  immediate.  Justice,  vice,  liquor,  virtue,  all  had 
to  be  taken  straight  and  fast.  Life  was  too  violent  for  half  measures.  It 
had  to  be  lived  on  the  saddle,  with  the  vigilantes,  at  the  bar,  urgently. 
During  prohibition,  when  the  rough  and  speedy  lawlessness  of  the 
frontier  had  invaded  the  large  cities,  the  great  cowboy  philosopher 
Will  Rogers  commented  sadly  on  the  psychology  of  a  whole  nation,  "If 
we  must  sin,  let's  sin  quick,  and  don't  let  it  be  a  long,  lingering  sin- 


THE  FARMS  were,  however,  too  isolated  to  be  of  great  help  to  the  pro- 
hibitionists. Although  the  rich  commercial  farmers  might  support  pro- 
hibition to  get  more  work  out  of  their  hired  hands,  the  political 
strength  of  the  drys  lay  in  the  villages  and  small  country  towns,  par- 
ticularly among  the  wealthier  people.  For  the  small  town  was  never 
the  democratic  and  classless  society  which  it  claimed  to  be.  It  was 
usually  divided  into  a  dominant  middle-class  Protestant  group  given 
to  religion  and  stern  morality;  an  upper-class  group  of  "respectable" 
people  who  did  not  see  that  pleasure  and  sin  were  necessarily  in 
league  together;  Roman  Catholics  and  foreigners;  and  a  "lower"  class, 
which  ignored  the  morality  of  the  dominant  group  except  for  a  brief 
period  after  revival  meetings.-2  This  dominant  village  middle  class 
provided  religious  fodder  for  pulpit  politics  and  prohibition  and  gave 
the  Ku  Klux  Klan  the  majority  of  its  four  million  members  during  its 
revival  after  the  Great  War. 

The  prohibitionists  were  always  conscious  that  their  support  lay  in 
the  country.  They  carefully  attacked  alcohol  in  its  urban  and  foreign 
forms  —  beer  and  rum.  They  did  not  crusade  with  any  vigor  against 
country  liquor  — hard  cider  and  corn  whisky.  They  represented  the 
cities  as  full  of  foreigners  making  evil  profits  out  of  poisonous  drinks. 

GOD    MADE    THE    COUNTRY/   19 

It  was  impossible  to  raise  good  Americans  there.  The  International 
Reform  Bureau  warned  the  God-fearing: 

In  this  age  of  cities  it  is  to  be  expected  that  conversions  will  decrease 
if  we  allow  needless  temptations  about  our  youth  to  increase,  such  as 
foul  pictures,  corrupt  literature,  leprous  shows,  gambling  slot  ma- 
chines, saloons,  and  Sabbath  breaking.  Instead  of  putting  around  our 
boys  and  girls  a  fence  of  favorable  environment,  we  allow  the  devil 
to  put  about  them  a  circle  of  fire;  and  then  we  wonder  that  they 
wither.  We  are  trying  to  raise  saints  in  hett.2* 

There  was  a  quality  of  desperation  in  the  country's  fear  of  the  city 
after  1896.  When  Bryan  was  defeated  by  McKinley,  the  country 
seemed  to  have  lost  its  chance  to  govern  die  nation.  The  Census  of 
1900  showed  that  nearly  two  in  every  five  Americans  lived  in  the  great 
cities.  In  1860,  it  had  been  one  in  five,  and  the  cities  were  now  growing 
faster  than  ever,  as  European  immigrants  poured  into  the  urban  slums. 
Within  twenty  years,  more  people  would  live  in  the  cities  than  in  the 
country,  and  the  old  rural  America  of  the  small  farmer,  on  which  the 
Republic  had  been  founded,  would  become  impotent.  It  is  small  won- 
der that  denunciations  of  the  city  rose  to  the  pitch  of  hysteria  on 
Chautauqua  circuits  and  in  dry  periodicals.  Alphonso  Alva  Hopkins, 
dry  editor  and  Prohibition  party  supporter,  wrote  a  typical  harangue 
in  1908,  calculated  to  appeal  to  every  prejudice  in  the  small-town 

Our  boast  has  been  that  we  are  a  Christian  people,  with  Morality 
at  the  center  of  our  civilization.  Foreign  control  or  conquest  is  rapidly 
making  us  un-Christian,  with  immorality  throned  in  power. 

Besodden  Europe,  worse  bescourged  than  by  war,  famine  and 
pestilence,  sends  here  her  drink-makers,  her  drunkard-makers,  and 
her  drunkards,  or  her  more  temperate  but  habitual  drinkers,  with  all 
their  un-American  and  anti-American  ideas  of  morality  and  govern- 
ment; they  are  absorbed  into  our  national  life,  but  not  assimilated; 
with  no  liberty  whence  they  came,  they  demand  unrestricted  liberty 
among  us,  even  to  license  for  the  things  we  loathe;  and  through  the 
ballot-box,  flung  wide  open  to  them  by  foolish  statesmanship  that 
covets  power,  their  foreign  control  or  conquest  has  become  largely  an 
appalling  fact;  they  dominate  our  Sabbath,  over  large  areas  of  country; 
they  have  set  up  for  us  their  own  moral  standards,  which  are  grossly 
immoral;  they  govern  our  great  cities,  until  even  Reform  candidates 
accept  their  authority  and  pledge  themselves  to  obey  it;  the  great 
cities  govern  the  nation;  and  foreign  control  or  conquest  could  gain 
little  more,  though  secured  by  foreign  armies  and  fleets. 

As  one  feature  of  this  foreign  conquest,  foreign  capital  has  come 
here,  and  to  the  extent  of  untold  millions  has  invested  itself  in 
breweries,  until  we  are  told  that  their  annual  profits  at  one  time 

20   /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

reached  about  $25,000,000  yearly,  sent  over  seas  to  foreign  stock- 
holders, who  shared  thus  in  their  conquest  of  America,  while  to  them, 
in  their  palaces  and  castles,  American  Labor  paid  tribute,  and  for  their 
behoof  American  morals  were  debased,  the  American  Sunday  sur- 

These  theories  of  conspiracy  might  be  credible  to  small-town  audi- 
ences. But  they  did  not  convince  the  great  cities,  nor  their  representa- 
tives in  Congress.  The  prohibitionists  might  never  have  been  able  to 
gain  the  necessary  vote  in  the  Senate  and  House  of  Representatives 
to  secure  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  if  they  had  not 
had  a  murderous  stroke  of  luck.  Their  chance  was  the  Great  War, 
and  America's  part  in  the  slaughter.  There  is  no  room  for  moderation 
in  war.  Woodrow  Wilson,  agonized  by  doubt  before  he  read  his  war 
message  to  Congress,  said  that  what  he  feared  most  from  the  war  was 
that  the  people  would  forget  there  was  ever  such  a  thing  as  tolerance. 
Wilson  was  correct.  "The  spirit  of  ruthless  brutality"  did  enter  into  the 
very  fiber  of  American  life,  until  Harding  restored  normalcy.25  Pabst 
and  Busch  were  German;   therefore  beer  was  unpatriotic.   Liquor 
stopped  American  soldiers  from  firing  straight;  therefore  liquor  was  a 
total  evil.  Brewing  used  up  eleven  million  loaves  of  barley  bread  a  day, 
which  could  have  fed  the  starving  Allies;  therefore  the  consumption  of 
alcohol  was  treason.  Pretzels  were  German  in  name;  therefore,  to  de- 
fend Old  Glory,  they  were  banned  from  the  saloons  of  Cincinnati. 
Seven  years  after  the  end  of  the  war,  a  Pennsylvania  doctor  was  still 
suggesting  that  the  name  of  German  measles  be  changed  to  victor}'  or 
liberty  measles.26 

In  this  orgy  of  simplicity,  this  crusade  for  peace  through  war,  this 
national  bandwagon  of  unreason  and  false  logic,  the  arguments  of  the 
drys  seemed  irrefutable.  They  were  for  God  and  for  America,  against 
the  saloon  and  against  Germany.  The  wets  therefore  must  be  for  Satan 
and  for  Germany,  against  God  and  against  America.  Briefly,  city  and 
country  thought  alike.  Clarence  Darrow  was  wrong  in  1924,  when  he 
said  that  "the  vast  centers  of  population,  where  all  the  feeling  for 
liberty  that  still  persists  in  this  country  is  kept  alive,  the  great  centers 
of  tolerance  and  independence  and  thought  and  culture  -  the  cities  — 
all  of  them  were  wet  before  prohibition,  and  since."27  He  had  forgotten 
the  Great  War,  when  the  cities  were  as  intolerant  and  moralistic  and 
patriotic  as  any  Gopher  Prairie. 

The  war,  however,  had  its  shocks  for  the  boosters  of  the  countryside. 
The  drys  discovered  to  their  surprise  that  more  country  boys 'were 
rejected  as  unfit  from  the  First  Selective  Draft  than  city  boys.  More 
than  one  in  three  of  the  draftees  were  rejected,  mainly  on  account  of 
feeble-mindedness.  In  addition,  the  draft  boards  found  that  city  boys 

GOD    MADE    THE    COUNTRY/   21 

as  a  whole  were  much  more  fit  than  country  boys.  The  drys  countered 
these  facts  by  saying  that  the  fit  city  boys  were  merely  intelligent 
immigrants  from  the  country.  As  for  the  problem  of  feeble-mindedness, 
the  drys  gave  the  excuse  that  the  idiot  city  girl  caught  venereal 
diseases,  became  sterile,  and  produced  no  sons  for  the  Army.  The  pure 
but  moronic  country  girl,  sadly  enough,  had  a  great  many  illegitimate 

The  drys  always  maintained  that  the  country  was  the  reservoir  of 
strong  manhood  for  the  city.  In  fact  the  reverse  was  the  case.  Although 
conditions  in  the  cities  were  bad,  they  were  not  as  bad  as  on  many 
farms.  Child  labor  laws  increasingly  protected  the  sons  of  factory 
workers;  nothing  saved  the  children  of  farmers  from  exploitation  at 
the  plow  and  cowshed.  Hamlin  Garland  plowed  all  day  at  the  age  of 
ten.29  He  tells  of  prematurely  aged  boys  of  fourteen,  with  stooped 
shoulders  from  overwork.  Disease,  ignorance,  poverty,  filth,  all  took 
their  toll  in  the  countryside.  Rural  slums  were,  in  many  cases,  worse 
than  urban  slums.  If  the  small  towns  sent  their  fit  and  willing  sons  into 
the  cities,  they  also  sent  their  criminals,  their  diseased,  and  their 
drunkards.  The  history  of  the  Jukes  family,  which  contributed  thou- 
sands of  mental  defectives  and  criminals  to  American  society,  says 
little  for  the  pure  Anglo-Saxon  stock  of  the  backwoods.  The  best  sight 
for  a  Scotsman,  in  Dr.  Johnson's  opinion,  was  the  high  road  to  Eng- 
land. The  highway  to  the  city  was  often  the  same  blessing  for  the 
fanner  boy. 

Inevitably,  the  country  began  to  submit  to  the  rescue  operations 
of  the  cities.  Culture  often  follows  in  the  wake  of  economic  exploita- 
tion. Although  urban  and  international  markets  tied  the  farmer  to  the 
manipulation  of  world  prices  by  financiers,  the  same  Industrial  Revolu- 
tion that  produced  the  stock  exchange  produced  the  improved  com- 
munications that  made  piedmont  into  a  suburb  of  tidewater.  Mass- 
circulation  newspapers  pushed  out  local  newspapers,  chain  stores 
destroyed  country  stores,  cheap  branded  goods  drove  out  expensive 
local  products,  better  highways  and  automobiles  punctured  rural 
isolation,  radio  and  cinema  impregnated  the  minds  of  the  young  with 
city  habits.  Machines  were  invented  to  lighten  the  burden  of  field  and 
kitchen  on  man,  woman,  and  child.  Hospitals,  doctors,  and  hired  nurses 
saved  those  country  sufferers  who  were  being  slowly  killed  by  home 
medicines.  The  declining  influence  of  ignorant  country  preachers  and 
biased  textbooks  allowed  some  relief  to  women  crushed  under  inces- 
sant childbearing  and  child  raising.  Slowly,  slowly,  after  the  turn  of 
the  century,  the  American  city  began  to  take  over  the  American  coun- 
try. Yet  the  country  won  battles  in  its  defeat.  Among  these  victories 
was  national  prohibition. 


The  contagion  of  war  caught  up  the  cities  of  America  in  the  simple 
choices  of  the  country  mind.  When  victory  was  the  aim  of  the  nation, 
there  was  no  time  for  fine  distinctions  between  right  and  wrong. 
To  win  was  to  be  moral,  and  any  means  used  in  winning  were  good 
means.  But  while  the  psychology  of  belligerence  swept  through  the 
United  States  only  in  time  of  emergency,  it  was  always  part  of  the 
force  behind  the  leaders  and  followers  of  prohibition.  They  were 
militant  and  aggressive,  demanding  present  remedies  for  present  evils. 
The  Satan  of  the  saloon  was  everywhere.  It  must  be  abolished  so  that 
the  reign  of  God  could  begin  on  earth.  Below  their  inheritance  of  rural 
beliefs,  the  drys  had  deeper  wellsprings  of  action.  In  them,  the  battle 
against  King  Alcohol  always  continued;  in  them,  there  was  a  holy 

C  H  A  P  T  E  K 

The  Psychology  of  Prohibition 

All  we  have  to  do  is  to  think  of  the  wrecks  on  either  bank 
of  the  stream  of  death,  of  the  suicides,  of  the  insanity,  of 
the  ignorance,  of  the  destitution,  of  the  little  children  tug- 
ging at  the  faded  and  withered  breast  of  weeping  and 
despairing  mothers,  of  wives  asking  for  bread,  of  the  men 
of  genius  it  has  wrecked,  the  men  struggling  with  imaginary 
serpents,  produced  by  this  devilish  thing;  and  when  you 
think  of  the  jails,  of  the  almshouses,  of  the  asylums,  of  the 
prisons,  of  the  scaffolds  upon  either  bank,  I  do  not  wonder 
that  every  thoughtful  man  is  prejudiced  against  this  damned 
stuff  called  alcohol. 

The  Commoner,  July  11,  1913 

RECENT  RESEARCH  on  the  nature  of  prejudice  has  made  a  mo- 
mentous discovery.  The  cognitive  processes  of  prejudiced  people 
are  different  in  general  from  the  cognitive  processes  of  tolerant  people. 
In  fact,  a  person's  prejudice  is  not  usually  a  particular  attitude  to  a 
particular  question;  it  is  more  often  a  whole  pattern  of  thinking  about 
the  world.1  The  prejudiced  person  is  given  to  simple  judgments  in 
general,  to  assertions,  to  definite  statements,  to  terms  of  black  and 
white.  Ambiguity  is  an  evil  to  him  because  set  truth  is  the  good.  He 
thinks  in  stereotypes,  in  rules,  in  truisms,  in  the  traditional  folkways 
of  his  environment.  Such  education  as  he  receives  merely  gives  him 
more  reasons  for  his  old  beliefs.  Indeed,  he  is  the  man  who  was  found 
frequently  in  the  dominant  middle  class  of  the  small  town,  on  the 
Western  farms,  and  in  the  Southern  shacks,  where  no  complex  clamor 
of  urban  life  unsettled  the  mind  and  brain  and  eyes  from  the  easy 
pairings  of  right  and  wrong.  He  is  the  man  who  was  the  backbone  of 
the  dry  cause. 

The  Eighteenth  Amendment  could  not  have  been  passed  without 
the  support  of  the  psychologically  tolerant,  made  temporarily  intoler- 
ant by  flie  stress  of  war.  But  when  the  moderates  deserted  the  drys  in 
time  of  peace,  the  hard  core  of  the  movement  was  revealed.  The  main 
areas  of  prohibition  sentiment  were  the  areas  where  the  Methodist  and 


24   /   THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

Baptist  churches  had  their  greatest  strength.  These  were  the  areas  that 
fathered  the  bigot  crusade  of  the  Ku  Klux  Klan,  which  supported 
prohibition,  among  other  moral  reforms.  Although  many  sincere  drys 
were  not  bigots  at  the  beginning  of  the  campaign  for  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment,  they  became  bigots  or  left  the  cause  by  the  time  of  re- 
peal. Prohibition,  an  extreme  measure,  forced  its  extremes  on  its  sup- 
porters and  its  enemies.  Its  study  becomes  a  study  of  social  excess. 

Although  there  were  reasonable  moral  and  economic  and  medical 
reasons  for  supporting  prohibition,  the  drys  themselves  exploited  many 
irrational  motives  within  themselves  and  their  followers.  Among  the 
leaders  of  the  cause,  there  was  hysteria  in  their  passion  to  wean  the 
human  race  from  alcohol.  There  was  what  one  leader  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  found  in  another,  "an  almost  revengeful  hatred  of  the 
liquor  traffic  ...  a  dogmatic  and  consecrated  prejudice  against  or- 
ganized wrong."2  There  was  an  element  of  sadism  and  undue  persecu- 
tion in  the  drys'  legislative  pursuit  of  the  sinner,  and  in  the  flogging  of 
prostitutes  and  bootleggers  by  the  Ku  Klux  Klan.  There  was  a  thirst 
for  power,  which  revealed  itself  in  the  savage  struggles  for  position 
and  prestige  within  the  dry  organizations,  and  in  the  sixteen-hour  days 
worked  year  after  year  for  no  profit  except  self-satisfaction  by  such 
men  as  Wayne  B.  Wheeler,  the  great  lobbyist  of  the  dry  cause.  There 
was  also  a  deliberate  exploitation  of  prejudiced  mentalities  among 
their  listeners  by  revivalist  preachers  such  as  Billy  Sunday.  Above  all, 
until  the  failure  of  the  World  League  Against  Alcoholism,  there  was  a 
feeling  that  prohibition  was  a  winning  global  crusade,  and  that  those 
first  on  the  wagon  would  be  first  in  the  promised  land  of  earth  and 

Among  the  followers  of  prohibition,  there  were  other  blind  motives. 
There  was  the  release  from  tension  offered  by  the  crusade  against 
wrong.  One  "chastened  crusader"  confessed  after  the  Women's  Cru- 
sade against  the  saloons  in  Ohio  in  1873,  "The  Crusade  was  a  daily 
dissipation  from  which  it  seemed  impossible  to  tear  myself.  In  the 
intervals  at  home  I  felt,  as  I  can  fancy  the  drinker  does  at  the  break- 
ing down  of  a  long  spree."8  Allied  with  this  release  was  an  unreasoning 
fear  of  hard  liquor,  instilled  by  decades  of  revival  sermons.  As  a  female 
supporter  of  beer  and  wine  wrote  in  1929,  "It  is  not  love  of  whisky 
which  makes  real  temperance  impossible  in  this  year  of  grace.  It  is 
the  fear  of  it,  the  blinding,  demoralizing  terror  felt  by  good  people 
who  have  never  tasted  anything  stronger  than  sweet  communion 
wine."4  This  terror  drove  the  extreme  drys  into  a  stupid  and  obnoxious 
pursuit  of  the  drinker  during  prohibition,  which  made  the  whole  dry 
cause  stink  in  the  nostrils  of  the  moderate.  The  Durant  and  Hearst 
prize  contests  for  a  solution  to  the  prohibition  problem  revealed  its 


Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


distorted  importance  in  the  minds  of  certain  drys  and  gave  them  wide 
publicity.  One  woman  suggested  that  liquor  law  violators  should  be 
hung  by  the  tongue  beneath  an  airplane  and  carried  over  the  United 
States.  Another  suggested  that  the  government  should  distribute  poison 
liquor  through  the  bootleggers;  she  admitted  that  several  hundred 
thousand  Americans  would  die,  but  she  thought  that  this  cost  was 
worth  the  proper  enforcement  of  the  dry  law.  Others  wanted  to  deport 
all  aliens,  exclude  wets  from  all  churches,  force  bootleggers  to  go  to 
church  every  Sunday,  forbid  drinkers  to  marry,  torture  or  whip  or 
brand  or  sterilize  or  tattoo  drinkers,  place  offenders  in  bottle-shaped 
cages  in  public  squares,  make  them  swallow  two  ounces  of  castor  oil, 
and  even  execute  the  consumers  of  alcohol  and  their  posterity  to  the 
fourth  generation.5 

This  extremism  was  only  prevalent  among  a  small  group  of  the  drys, 
but  it  was  enough  to  damn  all  drys  as  fanatics.  They  were  not  so, 
although  their  spokesmen  often  were.  Yet,  living  in  a  time  before 
Freud  and  psychology  were  widely  understood,  they  did  not  question 
their  own  motives.  It  was  a  time  when  "the  figure  of  God  was  big  in 
the  hearts  of  men,"  and  the  drive  of  personal  frustration  was  put  down 
to  divine  guidance.6  Men  were  not  aware  of  the  subconscious  motives 
which  made  them  prohibitionists;  but  these  motives  were  none  the  less 
real.  Behind  the  crusade  against  the  saloon  lurked  the  tormented  spirits 
of  many  people. 

Freud's  masterpiece,  Civilization  and  Its  Discontents,  suggests  some 
of  the  unconscious  forces  that  drove  on  the  drys.  The  childish,  the  im- 
mature, those  who  had  least  recovered  from  the  ignorant  certainties 
of  youth  sought  consolation  in  an  authoritarian  crusade,  in  the  same 
way  that  those  who  cannot  bear  life  without  a  father  often  make  a 
father  of  God.  Refuge  from  the  ambiguities  and  difficulties  of  modern 
life  was,  for  many  of  the  drys,  only  to  be  found  in  total  immersion  in 
clear-cut  moral  reform.  The  saloon  was  a  sufficient  Satan  to  become 
the  scapegoat  of  the  devil  in  man.  Abolition  of  the  saloon  was  inter- 
preted by  the  prohibitionists  as  a  personal  victory  over  doubt  and  sin 
in  their  own  lives.  With  a  terrible  faith  in  equality,  the  prohibitionists 
often  wanted  to  suppress  in  society  the  sins  they  found  in  themselves. 
G.  K.  Chesterton  put  the  matter  well: 

When  the  Puritan  or  the  modern  Christian  finds  that  his  right  hand 
offends  him  he  not  only  cuts  it  off  but  sends  an  executioner  with  a 
chopper  all  down  the  street,  chopping  off  the  hands  of  all  the  men, 
women  and  children  in  the  town.  Then  he  has  a  curious  feeling  of 
comradeship  and  of  everybody  being  comfortable  together.  .  .  .  He  is 
after  all  in  some  queer  way  a  democrat,  because  he  is  as  much  a 
despot  to  one  man  as  to  another.7 


It  was  in  this  wish  to  extend  their  own  repressions  to  all  society  that 
the  drys  felt  themselves  most  free  from  their  constant  inward  struggle. 
Indeed,  they  defended  their  attacks  on  the  personal  liberty  of  other 
men  by  stating  that  they  were  bringing  these  men  personal  liberty 
for  the  first  time.  According  to  one  dry  leader,  personal  liberty  reached 
its  highest  expression  where  the  strongest  inhibitions  were  invoked 
and  enforced.8  Moreover,  personal  liberty  was  only  possible  once 
prohibition  had  freed  the  slaves  of  alcohol.  Of  course,  in  reality  the 
drys  were  trying  to  bring  personal  liberty  to  themselves,  by  externaliz- 
ing their  anguished  struggles  against  their  own  weaknesses  in  their 
battle  to  reform  the  weaknesses  of  others.  The  conflict  between  con- 
science and  lust,  between  superego  and  id,  was  transferred  by  the  drys 
from  their  own  bodies  to  the  body  politic  of  all  America;  and,  in  the 
ecstasy  of  that  paranoia  which  Freud  saw  in  all  of  us,  they  would 
have  involved  the  whole  earth. 

Freud,  whose  own  life  was  hard,  considered  intoxicants  a  great 
blessing  in  the  human  struggle  for  happiness  and  in  the  warding  off  of 

It  is  not  merely  the  immediate  gain  in  pleasure  which  one  owes  to 
them,  but  also  a  measure  of  that  independence  of  the  outer  world 
which  is  so  sorely  craved.  Men  know  that  with  the  help  they  can  get 
from  "drowning  their  cares"  they  can  at  any  time  slip  away  from  the 
oppression  of  reality  and  find  a  refuge  in  a  world  of  their  own  where 
painful  feelings  do  not  enter.9 

Freud  saw  that  the  moderate  use  of  liquor  was  necessary  for  driven 
men,  who  could  not  find  other  interests  or  gratifications  against  the 
miseries  of  the  world.  The  prohibitionists,  however,  presumed  that 
a  man  who  was  denied  the  bottle  would  turn  to  the  altar.  They  were 
wrong.  They  closed  the  saloons,  but  the  churches  did  not  fill.  Lucidly, 
drugs,  radios,  motion  pictures,  automobiles,  proliferating  societies, 
professional  sports,  paid  holidays,  and  the  relaxed  sexual  ethics  of  the 
flaming  twenties  provided  new  outlets  for  the  libidos  of  deprived 
drinkers.  Without  these  new  outlets,  the  drys  might  have  had  to  deal 
with  a  psychological  explosion. 

Yet  extremism  was  not  confined  to  the  ranks  of  the  drys.  If  the 
moderate  drys  were  shamed  by  the  excesses  and  motives  of  the  ex- 
treme drys,  so  the  moderate  wets  were  damned  by  the  millions  of 
heavy  drinkers  and  alcoholics  on  their  side.  If  some  prohibitionists 
were  compulsive  in  their  craving  for  water  for  everybody,  some  drink- 
ers were  even  more  compulsive  in  their  craving  for  an  excess  of  liquor 
for  themselves.  Alcoholics  may  suffer  from  many  inadequacies  —  emo- 
tional immaturity,  instability,  infantilism,  passivity,  dependence, 


pathological  jealousy,  oral  eroticism,  latent  homosexuality,  isolation, 
narcissism,  and  masochism.10  People  who  possess  such  defects  are  not 
to  be  deprived  of  their  liquor  by  respect  for  the  law  of  the  land.  They 
need  understanding,  not  prohibition,  which  merely  drives  them  into 
drinking  any  murderous  substitute  for  liquor  rather  than  no  liquor  at 
all.  For  the  compulsive  drinker  drinks  because  he  is  compulsive  by 
nature,  as  is  the  fanatical  reformer.  To  deprive  the  compulsive  drinker 
of  his  drink  does  not  cure  him.  He  is  merely  forced  into  the  search  for 
substitutes.  Equally,  the  prohibition  of  a  reform  to  a  reformer  would 
not  make  him  give  up  all  reforms.  He  would  merely  turn  his  neuroses 
onto  another  brand  of  reform. 

The  real  tragedy  of  the  prohibitionist  ideology  was  that  it  left  no 
room  for  temperance.  The  dry  crusade  slipped  slowly  from  a  moderate 
remedy  for  obvious  evils  into  a  total  cure-all  for  society.  The  creed  of 
the  dedicated  dry  would  not  admit  the  existence  of  the  moderate 
drinker.  By  definition,  all  drinkers  were  bound  to  become  alcoholics. 
The  moral  of  the  famous  propaganda  piece  Ten  Nights  in  a  Bar-Room 
was  that  the  first  sip  of  beer  always  and  inevitably  led  to  a  drunkard's 
grave.  So  believing,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  could  not  attract  moderate 
support  by  allowing  the  sale  of  light  wines  and  beers.  National  prohi- 
bition had  to  be  total.  Yet  if  prohibition  had  been  confined  to  prohibi- 
tion of  ardent  spirits,  as  the  early  nineteenth-century  temperance 
associations  had  recommended,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  might  have 
had  the  support  of  the  brewers,  the  winegrowers,  and  the  majority  of 
the  American  people  to  this  day.  A  survey  conducted  in  1946  in 
America  showed  that  fewer  than  two-fifths  of  the  adult  population 
ever  drank  spirits,  either  regularly  or  intermittently.11 

In  the  early  days  of  their  counterattack,  the  brewers  and  distillers 
matched  the  hysteria  of  the  drys  in  their  denunciations.  They  accused 
the  prohibitionists  of  being  cranks  and  crackpots,  "women  with  short 
hair  and  men  with  long  hair/*  According  to  the  wets,  America  was 
less  threatened  by  the  "gentlemanly  vices"  than  by  "perfidy  and 
phariseeism  in  public  and  private  life."  Many  men  "marked  the  dis- 
tinction between  moderation  and  intemperance,"  and  rich  red  blood, 
rather  than  ice  water,  flowed  in  their  veins.12  The  drys  were  accused 
of  being 

.  .  .  more  critical  of  each  other,  more  self-conscious  .  .  .  harder, 
drabber  in  speech.  Iced  water,  ice  cream,  icy  eyes,  icy  words.  Gone 
the  mellowness,  generosity,  good  humor,  good  nature  of  life.  Enter 
the  will-bound,  calculating,  material,  frigid  human  machine.  Strange 
that  the  removal  of  this  thing,  supposed  to  pander  to  the  animal  in 
us,  makes  one  feel  less  a  man  and  more  an  animal,  above  all,  an  ant. 
.  .  .  Although  —  who  knows?  —  ants  may  drink.18 


The  doctrine  of  prohibition  appealed  to  the  psychology  of  excess, 
both  in  its  friends  and  in  its  foes.  They  could  find  only  evil  in  each 
other.  Extremes  conjure  up  extremes.  The  fight  against  the  devil 
carries  another  devil  in  its  exaggerations.  With  a  consecrated  prejudice 
on  the  part  of  the  drys  opposed  to  an  unenlightened  self-interest  on 
the  part  of  the  wets,  there  was  little  room  left  for  compromise.  Indeed, 
the  drys  were  proud  of  their  prejudice.  It  seemed  to  them  a  holy  senti- 
ment. With  Robert  Ingersoll,  they  did  not  believe  that  any  person 
could  contemplate  the  evils  of  drink  "without  being  prejudiced  against 
the  liquor  crime."14 


THE  EXTREMES  of  dry  psychology  were  well  suited  to  white  Southern- 
ers. They  had  a  special  use  for  prohibition.  It  offered  them  a  moral 
refuge  from  their  guilty  fear  of  the  Negro,  as  well  as  a  method  of 
controlling  one  of  his  means  of  self-assertion.  Liquor  sometimes  gave 
the  Negro  the  strength  to  repudiate  his  inferior  status,  It  also  en- 
couraged him  to  loose  his  libido  on  white  women,  incited,  so  it  was 
said,  by  the  nudes  on  the  labels  of  whisky  bottles.15  Thus  the  Negro 
should  be  prevented  from  drinking  alcohol.  To  a  lesser  degree,  the 
same  rule  should  be  applied  to  white  men,  although  this  reform  was 
not  so  urgent.  Congressman  Hobson,  from  Alabama,  made  this  clear 
in  the  House  of  Representatives  in  1914,  while  speaking  on  his  resolu- 
tion for  a  prohibition  amendment  to  the  Constitution.  "Liquor  will 
actually  make  a  brute  out  of  a  negro,  causing  him  to  commit  unnatural 
crimes.  The  effect  is  the  same  on  the  white  man,  though  the  white  man 
being  further  evolved  it  takes  longer  time  to  reduce  him  to  the  same 

In  the  same  debate,  Congressman  Pou,  of  North  Carolina,  although 
he  opposed  Hobson's  resolution  on  account  of  the  sacred  doctrine  of 
states*  rights,  did  not  question  the  need  for  racial  control.  He  reminded 
Congress  gently  that  the  South  had  been  forced  to  take  away  the 
ballot  from  the  Negro  "as  the  adult  takes  the  pistol  from  the  hand  of 
a  child."16  *  Since  the  ballot  and  alcohol  were  the  two  means  of  assertion 
given  to  the  Negro,  they  must  be  denied  to  him.  By  the  time  of  the 
Hobson  resolution,  all  the  Southern  states  had  discriminated  against 
the  Negro  voter  and  all  but  two  had  adopted  prohibitory  laws  against 
•liquor.  The  first  measure  had  allowed  the  second.  Congressman  Quin, 
of  Mississippi,  stressed  this  in  reference  to  the  South.  "Prohibition 
itself  gained  a  foothold  there  and  was  made  possible  only  after  the 

*  As  Mr.  Dooley  pointed  out,  the  South  did  actually  allow  the  Negro  to  vote, 
"only  demandin'  that  he  shall  prove  that  his  father  an*  mother  were  white." 


restriction  upon  the  suffrage  of  the  negro/'17  To  Northern  drys,  even 
if  the  South  was  in  the  rout  of  democracy  at  the  polling  booth,  it  was 
in  the  van  of  reform  at  the  saloon.  If  it  denied  the  Fifteenth  Amend- 
ment, it  was  rabid  in  support  of  the  Eighteenth. 

This  paternalism  among  the  responsible  Southern  leaders  and  the 
denial  of  the  principle  of  equality  was  not  confined  to  the  white  race. 
Professor  Councill,  the  principal  of  the  Negro  school  in  Huntsville, 
Alabama,  spoke  out  for  the  abolition  of  the  saloon  as  the  first  step  in 
the  emancipation  of  his  own  race.  J.  F.  Clark  agreed  with  him,  al- 
though from  a  position  of  racial  superiority: 

The  saloon  is  a  place  of  rendezvous  for  aD  classes  of  the  low  and 
vulgar,  a  resort  for  degraded  whites  and  their  more  degraded  negro 
associates,  the  lounging  place  for  adulterers,  lewd  women,  the  favorite 
haunt  of  gamblers,  drunkards  and  criminals.  Both  blacks  and  whites 
mix  and  mingle  together  as  a  mass  of  degraded  humanity  in  this  cess- 
pool of  iniquity.  Here  we  have  the  worst  form  of  social  equality,  but 
I  am  glad  to  know  that  it  is  altogether  among  the  more  worthless  of 
both  races.18 

Booker  T.  Washington  was  of  much  the  same  opinion.  Prohibition 
would  be  a  blessing  to  the  Negro  people  second  only  to  the  abolition 
of  slavery.  "Two-thirds  of  the  mobs,  lynchings,  and  burnings  at  the 
stake  are  the  result  of  bad  whisky  drunk  by  bad  black  men  and  bad 
white  men/'19  Negro  and  white  leaders  could  join  together  in  the 
crusade  against  the  saloon,  which  often  incited  the  racial  fears  of  the 
South  to  the  pitch  of  murder. 

Two  other  forces  drove  the  Southerners  towards  prohibition.  The 
first  was  patriotism.  The  South  was  once  again  the  moral  leader  of  the 
nation  in  this  reform,  and  in  this  reform  lay  the  chance  of  revenge. 
If  the  North  had  abolished  chattel  slavery  in  the  South,  the  South 
would  retaliate  by  abolishing  rum  slavery  in  the  North.  The  second 
force  was  the  monolithic  structure  of  the  Democratic  party  in  the 
South.  Traditionally,  the  Negroes  voted  Republican  and  the  whites 
Democratic.  The  elimination  of  Negro  ballots  at  the  polls  left  the 
Democratic  party  solidly  in  control  of  Southern  patronage.  The  only 
chance  for  the  Republicans  to  regain  some  form  of  political  power  lay 
in  the  proper  enfranchisement  of  the  Negroes,  which  was  impossible, 
or  in  the  wresting  of  the  moral  leadership  of  the  South  from  the  Demo- 
crats. To  do  so,  they  had  to  find  a  popular  cause  which  was  both  moral 
and  an  instrument  of  racial  control.  Prohibition  was  such  a  cause.  Fear 
that  the  Republicans  might  seize  the  leadership  of  the  prohibition 
movement,  or  that  the  Prohibition  party,  founded  in  1869,  might  split 
the  Democratic  vote  and  let  in  the  Republicans,  drove  the  Democrats 


into  the  dry  column  in  the  South.20  Thus  the  anomaly  of  a  party  based 
on  the  wet  cities  of  the  North  and  the  dry  rural  counties  of  the  South 
was  emphasized.  The  quarrel  over  prohibition  brought  into  the  open 
a  deep  fissure  among  the  Democrats  that  made  them  ineffective  as  a 
party  for  a  decade. 

Other  forces  conspired  to  give  alcohol  a  special  position  in  the 
psyche  of  the  South.  Although  white  rural  Southerners  shared  in  the 
nationwide  economic  and  moral  drives  towards  prohibition,  they  also 
suffered  from  the  peculiar  compulsions  given  to  them  by  their  environ- 
ment. In  the  Southern  character,  an  overwhelming  need  to  master  the 
Negro  was  coupled  with  a  split  between  Puritanism  and  hedonism. 
This  split  made  the  Southerner  seek  the  forbidden  as  a  necessary  part 
of  his  greatest  pleasure,  while  a  sense  of  guilt  drove  him  into  depend- 
ence on  the  absolution  of  violence  or  of  orgiastic  religion.21  The  ambiv- 
alent attitude  of  the  Southern  country  white  toward  the  Negro,  his 
emotional  cocktail  of  fear  shaken  up  with  lust,  was  also  his  attitude 
toward  liquor.  It  is  no  coincidence  that  Mississippi,  the  most  deeply 
rural  of  all  states,  is  the  last  state  in  the  Union  to  keep  to  the  Southern 
trinity  of  official  prohibition,  heavy  liquor  consumption,  and  an  oc- 
casional lynching.  When  Will  Rogers  commented  that  Mississippi 
would  vote  dry  as  long  as  the  voters  could  stagger  to  the  polls,  he  was 
too  kind  to  mention  that  they  would  also  lynch  Negroes  as  long  as  they 
could  stagger  to  the  rope.* 

The  drys  deliberately  exploited  this  darkness  in  the  Southern  mind. 
Fundamentalist  religion  often  attracted  large  audiences  by  the  very 
emphasis  on  vice  and  iniquity,  violence  and  rape,  which  the  mass 
media  and  the  yellow  press  adopted  in  the  twentieth  century.  An 
example  can  be  taken  from  the  work  of  the  Reverend  Wilbur  Fisk 
Crafts.  He  was  very  influential,  being  president  of  the  International 
Reform  Bureau  at  Washington,  a  prolific  writer  and  speaker,  and  a 
pastor  at  different  times  in  the  Methodist  Episcopal,  Congregational, 
and  Presbyterian  churches.  His  favorite  sermon  on  prohibition  began 
with  a  description  of  a  man  in  seventeenth-century  Bavaria  who  con- 
fessed on  the  rack  that  he  had  eaten  thirteen  children,  after  being 
changed  into  a  wolf  by  the  devil's  girdle.  The  man  was  then  sentenced 
to  be  put  on  the  wheel  and  beheaded,  once  he  had  been  pinched  in 
twelve  places  on  his  body  with  red-hot  irons.  His  dead  body  was 
burned,  and  his  head  was  set  for  many  years  on  a  wooden  wolf  as  a 

*  There  were  573  recorded  lynchings  in  Mississippi  between  1882  and  1944. 
During  this  period,  Georgia  came  second  with  521  lynchings  and  Texas  third  with 
489.  After  the  Second  World  War,  the  number  of  lynchings  declined  dramatically, 
since  more  severe  legal  action  was  taken  against  those  who  were  responsible  for 
the  murders. 

32   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

After  this  edifying  start,  the  preacher  continued, 

So  runs  the  old  chronicle.  Has  it  any  parallel  in  present-day  life? 
The  next  time  you  open  your  newspaper  and  read  the  scare  heads 
describing  the  latest  lynching  horror  in  the  black  belt  of  the  United 
States,  ask  yourself  what  devil's  girdle  has  changed  so  many  negroes 
into  sensual  hyenas.  Remember  that  during  the  four  years  of  the  Civil 
War  the  whole  white  womanhood  of  the  South,  in  the  absence  of 
husband  and  brother,  in  the  death  grapple  of  battle,  was  at  the  mercy 
of  the  black  population  of  the  plantations. 

Yet  there  was  no  rape  at  that  time.  What,  then,  had  changed  the 
Negroes?  Was  it  emancipation  or  education,  or  the  possession  of  the 
suffrage?  Or  was  it  the  fact,  "which  for  all  rational  men  is  a  sufficient 
answer,"  that  75  per  cent  of  all  liquor  sales  in  the  South  Carolina  dis- 
pensaries were  to  Negroes?  Naturally,  it  was  liquor  which  was  the 
devil's  girdle  and  brought  about  the  punishment  reserved  for  those 
who  wore  the  devil's  girdle.  "The  souls  of  the  black  men  are  poisoned 
with  alcohol  and  their  bodies  in  due  course  drenched  in  petroleum 
and  burned/'22 

Of  course,  lynching  was  only  the  extreme  manifestation  of  the 
Southern  urge  to  violence  in  the  same  way  as  hoggish  drunkenness 
and  ecstatic  shakes  were  extreme  reactions  to  the  saloon  and  the 
revival  meeting.  There  was  a  responsible  and  moderate  leadership  in 
the  Deep  South,  composed  of  such  people  as  Senator  Oscar  Under- 
wood, of  Alabama,  who  opposed  prohibition  and  the  excesses  of  his 
countrymen  with  conviction  and  dignity.  But  unfortunately,  the  very 
conditions  which  made  the  Western  farms  and  small  towns  susceptible 
to  the  Manichaean  doctrines  of  the  drys  were  present  in  an  exagger- 
ated form  in  the  South.  There  were  few  large  cities.  The  hold  of  the 
primitive  Methodist  and  Baptist  churches  and  of  the  fundamentalist 
sects  was  widespread  and  powerful.  Little  industry  existed  below  the 
Potomac.  Conquest  by  the  North  and  memories  of  Reconstruction 
lived  on.  And  the  cult  of  purity  and  white  womanhood  allied  with  the 
fact  of  miscegenation  and  Negro  mistresses  produced  in  the  white 
Southerner  a  strange  discrepancy  between  stressed  morality  and  denied 
fact.  In  this  interval  between  ideal  and  reality,  the  cant  of  the  drinker 
who  voted  dry  flourished  like  a  magnolia  tree. 


THE  SOUTH  adopted  prohibition  to  protect  itself  against  its  poor  and 
its  Negroes  and  its  own  sense  of  guilt.  Those  American  missionaries 
who  supported  prohibition  at  home  and  abroad  had  like  motives.  The 


poor  and  the  colored  people  of  the  earth  were  dangerous  when  drunk. 
Moreover,  as  the  greed  of  Southern  planters  was  held  responsible  for 
the  existence  of  the  Negro  problem  in  the  South,  so  the  greed  of  white 
traders  was  usually  held  responsible  for  the  corruption  of  the  native 
races  overseas,  Early  American  imperialism  imitated  the  European 
pattern  of  traders  who  corrupted  the  local  people  with  rum  and  fire- 
arms and  diseases,  followed  by  clergymen  who  tried  to  save  those 
people  from  that  corruption.  In  America  itself,  the  defeat  of  the  red 
Indians  had  been  made  easy  by  their  introduction  to  rum;  once  they 
had  been  defeated,  they  were  immediately  protected  from  the  con- 
sequences of  rum  by  the  federal  government. 

A  similar  process  took  place  in  the  Pacific  islands.  In  1901,  Senator 
Henry  Cabot  Lodge  had  a  resolution  adopted  by  the  Senate  to  forbid 
the  sale  by  American  traders  of  opium  and  alcohol  to  "aboriginal 
tribes  and  uncivilized  races/'28  These  provisions  were  later  extended 
to  cover  "uncivilized"  elements  in  America  itself  and  in  its  territories, 
such  as  Indians,  Alaskans,  the  inhabitants  of  Hawaii,  railroad  work- 
ers, and  immigrants  at  ports  of  entry. 

The  evil  which  the  American  missionaries  were  trying  to  eradicate 
was  real  enough.  As  they  said,  Christian  nations  were  making  ten 
drunkards  to  one  Christian  among  backward  peoples.24  Prohibition  of 
rum  traders  was  obviously  a  good  thing  in  those  areas  controlled  by 
the  colonial  powers.  But  when  the  same  paternal  attitude  was  applied 
within  the  home  ground  of  the  colonial  powers  to  "handle  the  hun- 
dreds of  thousands  of  God's  weak  children,  who  are  being  ruined  and 
destroyed  through  the  oppressions  of  the  liquor  traffic,"  the  mission- 
aries ran  into  trouble.25  They  could  say  with  truth,  "Let  no  one  think 
we  are  neglecting  saloons  on  our  own  shores  in  this  crusade  for  the 
defense  of  native  races  at  a  distance."26  But  the  fact  that  the  colonial 
power  itself  was  often  a  democracy  made  this  missionary  attitude 
objectionable  at  home.  No  American  workingman  liked  to  be  classified 
with  those  "uncivilized"  peoples,  whom  he  was  taught  to  consider 
an  inferior  species.  He  also  objected  to  the  attitude  of  the  missionary, 
who  claimed  to  know  what  was  good  for  labor  better  than  labor  knew 
itself.  Moreover,  there  was  a  suspicious  similiarity  between  the  views 
of  the  employers,  who  said  that  prohibition  was  good  for  the  efficiency 
of  workingmen,  and  those  men  of  God,  who  said  that  prohibition  was 
necessary  for  the  salvation  of  their  souls. 

The  idea  of  world-wide  prohibition  was  contemporaneous  with  the 
idea  of  America  as  the  Messiah  of  mankind  and  the  Savior  of  the 
degenerate  world.  The  ideology  of  salvation,  which  was  once  applied 
by  middle-class  reformers  only  to  backward  races  and  the  American 
poor,  was  applied  to  the  whole  globe,  after  the  First  World  War 


seemed  to  prove  to  many  Americans  that  their  country  was  the  last 
refuge  of  peace  and  virtue.  In  addition,  the  spate  of  prohibition  legis- 
lation adopted  by  the  belligerent  powers  seemed  to  herald  a  world- 
wide prohibition  revolution.  Canada  and  Russia  forbade  liquor  during 
the  war;  Britain  and  France  and  Germany  severely  regulated  liquor. 
The  Moslem  and  Buddhist  world  was  also  officially  under  religious 
prohibition.  In  fact,  over  half  the  area  of  the  earth  seemed  behind  the 
dry  banners,  and  that  area  was  growing.  It  is  small  wonder  that 
William  Jennings  Bryan  could  prophesy  that  "alcohol  as  a  beverage 
has  been  indicted  as  a  criminal,  brought  up  to  the  bar  of  judgment, 
condemned,  and  executed.  Our  nation  will  be  saloonless  for  evermore 
and  will  lead  the  world  in  the  great  crusade  which  will  drive  intoxi- 
cating liquor  from  the  globe."27 

The  mentality  of  war  and  the  fantastic  hopes  of  a  millennial  peace 
encouraged  the  drys'  sense  of  international  mission.  As  the  leader  of 
the  Anti-Saloon  League  said  to  its  assembled  delegates  in  1919,  'The 
President  said  to  make  the  world  safe  for  democracy.  Now,  it  is  your 
business  and  mine,  it  is  the  business  of  the  church  of  God,  to  make  a 
democracy  that  is  safe  for  the  world,  by  making  it  intelligent  and  sober 
everywhere."28  The  reason  for  converting  the  world  was  simple.  It  was 
the  same  reason,  incidentally,  that  the  Bolsheviks  gave  for  insisting 
on  the  world-wide  Communist  revolution.  As  long  as  a  dry  America 
was  surrounded  by  wet  nations,  or  a  Communist  Russia  by  capitalist 
nations,  neither  prohibition  nor  Communism  would  be  safe.  How,  in 
the  opinion  of  the  drys,  could  prohibition  be  enforced  when  the  United 
States  was  bounded  "on  the  north  by  hard  liquor,  on  the  south  by 
liquor,  on  the  west  by  rum  and  on  the  east  by  no  limit"?29  The  best 
hope  of  prohibition,  like  the  best  hope  of  communism,  lay  in  the 
conquest  of  the  world. 

Of  course,  the  drys  saw  themselves  as  the  sworn  enemies  of  the 
Bolsheviks  and  of  communism.  They  said  that  they  were  the  defend- 
ers of  the  law  and  the  Constitution,  where  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment was  enshrined.  But  they  did  not  mention  their  revolutionary 
destruction  of  the  vast  property  interests  of  the  liquor  trade  without 
compensation.  There  were  further  curious  similarities  between  the 
Anti-Saloon  League  and  the  Bolshevik  party.  Both  organizations  were 
founded  at  much  the  same  time.  Both  were  small,  successful,  well- 
organized  minority  groups  who  knew  what  they  wanted.  Both  ex- 
ploited a  condition  of  war  to  put  themselves  in  power.  Although  the 
drys  used  propaganda  while  the  Bolsheviks  used  revolutionary  war- 
fare, both  used  the  methods  most  likely  to  succeed  in  their  societies. 
Both  groups  expected  through  historical  necessity  to  be  the  leaders 
of  a  global  revolution  in  the  habits  of  human  society.  The  expectations 


of  both  groups  were  quickly  disappointed.  While  Russia  settled  down 
under  Stalin  to  "Socialism  in  one  country/'  the  United  States  settled 
down  to  prohibition  in  one  country.  Both  revolutions  failed  in  their 
immediate  social  objectives,  although  the  names  and  the  language  of 
the  Russian  revolution  lingered  on. 

But  the  analogy  can  be  taken  too  far.  The  fact  that  the  drys  relied 
on  the  Christian  churches  and  on  democratic  procedures  limited  their 
success.  The  methods  of  the  World  League  Against  Alcoholism  could 
not  be  the  methods  of  international  subversion  of  the  Comintern.30 
When  Bishop  Cannon  demanded  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  "Shall 
It  Live  or  Die?"  and  came  to  the  conclusion  that  it  should  live  to  lead 
in  the  international  crusade  against  alcohol,  his  suggested  methods  of 
conquest  were  the  usual  propaganda  methods  of  the  League.  "It  must 
carry  to  every  nation  its  testimony  for  Prohibition,  by  printed  page,  by 
cartoon,  poster,  in  every  language,  and  by  trained  workers  and  speak- 
ers who  will  be  veritable  apostles  of  Prohibition  truth/'81  That  such 
a  crusade  was  hardly  likely  to  be  effective  in  Mediterranean  countries, 
long  used  to  drinking  wine,  did  not  deter  the  leaders  of  the  League. 
For,  as  long  as  the  crusade  against  liquor  lasted  at  home  and  abroad, 
they  kept  their  power  and  their  jobs  and  their  hopes  and  their  satis- 
faction in  the  good  fight  well  fought.  It  is  the  habit  of  revolutionaries 
never  to  be  content  with  the  limits  of  their  gains,  and  of  moral  re- 
formers rarely  to  accept  less  than  the  conversion  of  the  human  race. 

The  hidden  urges  behind  dry  leaders  and  white  Southerners  and 
foreign  missionaries  made  them  adopt  prohibition  as  a  panacea  for 
themselves  and  for  their  fellow  men.  The  dry  cause  brought  them 
peace  from  their  inner  struggles  and  fears  and  guilts.  They  sought  to 
extend  this  peace  to  races  and  classes  which  they  considered  inferior 
and  eventually  to  the  whole  earth.  The  freedom  of  the  globe  from  the 
evil  of  liquor  would  bring  the  condition  of  liberty  for  the  first  time 
to  all  mankind.  In  this  battle  for  the  good  of  all,  the  drys  would  use 
any  means  to  win.  For  the  liquor  enemy  was  evil  and  could  only  be 
fought  by  evil.  In  their  exploitation  of  the  fears  and  weaknesses  of 
their  fellow  Americans,  the  drys  were  guilty  of  many  questionable 
methods,  which  could  hardly  be  justified  by  the  purity  of  their 

CHAPTER        U 

The  Exploited  Terror 

Ye  mouldering  victims,  wipe  the  crumbling  grave-dust 
from  your  brow;  stalk  forth  in  your  tattered  shrouds  and 
bony  whiteness  to  testify  against  the  drink!  Come,  come 
from  the  gallows,  you  spirit-maddened  man-slayer,  grip 
your  bloody  knife,  and  stalk  forth  to  testify  against  it!  Crawl 
from  the  slimy  ooze,  ye  drowned  drunkards,  and  with 
suffocation's  blue  and  livid  lips  speak  out  against  the  drink. 
Snap  your  burning  chains,  ye  denizens  of  the  pit,  and  come 
up,  sheeted  in  fire,  dripping  with  the  flames  of  hell,  and 
with  your  trumpet  tongues  testifying  against  the  deep 
"damnation  of  the  drink." 

Platform  Echoes,  1885 

The  human  species,  with  all  its  immense  advantages,  has 
made  many  conspicuous  missteps.  Its  eating  habits  are  such 
as  to  have  induced  a  wide  assortment  of  wholly  unnecessary 
diseases;  its  drinking  habits  are  glaringly  injurious;  and  its 
excessive  indulgence  in  sex-waste  has  imperiled  the  life  of 
the  race. 


THE  POPULAR  belief  that  liquor  did  a  man  good  was  older  than  the 
American  colonies.  The  first  colonists  brought  over  from  Europe  a 
taste  for  ardent  spirits  and  a  faith  in  the  healing  power  of  aqua  vitae. 
Rum  was  drunk  everywhere  in  the  colonies,  at  weddings  and  funerals, 
at  the  founding  of  churches  and  during  the  swindling  of  red  Indians. 
Childish  ills  were  quieted,  if  not  cured,  by  small  doses  of  spirits. 
Housebuilding,  harvesting,  husking,  quilting,  bundling,  logrolling  —  all 
the  particular  festivities  of  pioneer  life  were  incomplete  without  huge 
quantities  of  hard  cider  and  corn  whisky.  Alcohol  was  thought  to  be 
a  necessity  for  heavy  work  with  the  hands.  In  1927,  after  sixty  years 
of  medical  testimony  to  the  contrary,  the  truckmen  in  the  old  Chelsea 
district  in  New  York  still  thought  that  they  had  to  start  their  days  with 
a  nip,  while  the  hatters  of  Danbury  could  not  work  without  enough 



alcohol  to  control  their  "hatter's  shakes/'1  Even  now,  the  brandy  bottle 
is  still  in  the  medicine  cupboard,  and  beer  is  sometimes  prescribed 
as  a  remedy  for  old  age. 

The  War  of  Independence  was  fought  partially  on  Dutch  courage 
and  American  liquor.  The  official  ration  for  each  soldier  at  Valley 
Forge  was  a  daily  gill  or  a  half  pint  of  whisky,  depending  on  the 
quartermaster's  supplies.  James  Thacher,  while  visiting  the  troops 
there,  heard  their  continual  complaints,  "No  pay,  no  clothes,  no  pro- 
visions, no  rum."2  The  shortage  of  liquor  became  so  great  that  General 
Gates,  president  of  the  Board  of  War,  threatened  to  seize  all  the 
supplies  of  spirits  that  were  being  held  back  by  profiteers.  Only  the 
unheeded  voice  of  the  physician-general  of  the  Middle  Department  of 
the  Continental  Army,  Dr.  Benjamin  Rush,  cautioned  against  the  use 
of  spirits.  He  had  noticed  that  the  consumption  of  alcohol  seemed  to 
increase  fatigue  and  lower  resistance  to  disease.  The  war,  however, 
was  won  despite  his  pleading. 

In  1784,  Dr.  Rush  published  his  famous  pamphlet,  An  Inquiry 
into  the  Effects  of  Spirituous  Liquors  on  the  Human  Body  and  Mind.3 
He  advocated  complete  abstinence  from  ardent  spirits.  In  an  appendix 
called  "A  Moral  and  Physical  Thermometer,"  he  made  the  case  that 
rum  paved  the  way  to  the  debtor's  cell  and  the  gallows,  while  small 
beer  and  occasional  cups  of  wine  or  cider  led  to  strength  of  body  and 
length  of  life.  His  writings  were  the  basis  of  the  temperance  sermons 
of  the  great  preacher,  Lyman  Beecher,  who  later  became  an  advocate 
of  total  prohibition  and  helped  to  spread  the  war  against  rum  across 
the  whole  of  the  United  States.  Beecher  appealed  to  God's  law  as  well 
as  to  medical  knowledge  in  his  Six  Sermons  on  the  Nature,  Occasions, 
Signs,  Evils  and  Remedy  of  Intemperance.4  The  wandering  mission- 
aries of  the  West  echoed  his  words  everywhere.  By  1834,  some  million 
Americans  were  enrolled  in  temperance  societies.  They  signed  the 
pledge  after  appeals  to  their  reason  and  morality  by  the  respected 
leaders  of  their  communities. 

In  1840,  however,  a  new  method  of  spreading  the  dry  gospel  was 
discovered.  The  Washingtonians,  a  society  of  reformed  drunkards, 
found  out  that  hundreds  of  thousands  could  be  made  to  sign  the 
pledge  after  hearing  the  confessions  of  saved  alcoholics.  The  techniques 
of  persuasion  of  the  Washingtonians  appealed  to  the  heart  rather 
than  to  the  head.  Mass  meetings,  processions  of  thousands  of  small 
girls  and  boys  in  Cold  Water  Armies,  torchlight  rallies,  titillation  by 
descriptions  of  the  life  of  sin  followed  by  redemption  through  repent- 
ence  —  these  were  the  weapons  of  the  new  advocates  of  temperance. 

Although  the  Washingtonian  movement  declined  rapidly,  its  tech- 
niques and  speakers  remained  behind.  John  H.  W.  Hawkins,  John  B. 


Gough,  and  their  imitators  spoke  to  millions  in  the  cities  and  small 
towns.5  Their  coming  was  the  highlight  of  the  dreary  year  in  country 
villages.  The  most  lurid  of  Brand  Whitlock's  memories  of  his  little 
Ohio  town  was  that  of  the  "dashing  and  romantic  fellow,"  who  re- 
counted the  fascinating  adventures  of  the  life  of  sin  on  the  temperance 

It  was  as  thrilling  as  anything  in  Night  Life  in  New  York,  a  book  of 
shocking  revelations  showing  just  how  wicked  a  place  New  York  was; 
it  was  sold  by  subscription  only,  and  was  not  at  all  Fit  for  the  Young. 
But  the  Reformed  Drunkard  was  even  better  than  the  book;  he  had 
been  there  and  had  seen  it  all  himself,  and  that  made  it  more  real.6 

Indeed,  the  chief  worry  of  the  local  small  boys  on  signing  the  pledge 
was  that  they  themselves  could  not  become  Reformed  Drunkards. 

The  original  drives  behind  the  temperance  movement  in  America 
are  clear.  There  was  a  sentiment  of  nationalism,  a  feeling  that  self- 
control  was  necessary  to  the  working  of  American  democracy.  There 
was  an  urge  towards  social  reform,  a  campaign  against  drunkenness 
and  prostitution  and  crime.  There  was  the  need  to  protect  the  home, 
the  wife,  and  the  children  of  the  drunkard  against  disease  and  want. 
There  was  the  power  of  evangelical  Protestantism,  which  condemned 
liquor  as  the  Devil's  own  drink.  There  was  thriftiness,  the  knowledge 
that  alcohol  makes  men  work  less  and  play  more.  And  there  was, 
finally,  the  success  of  the  movement.  In  1851,  Neal  Dow  secured  the 
passage  of  the  Maine  Law,  which  banned  the  sale  of  liquor  through- 
out the  state.7  Twelve  states  followed  the  lead  of  Maine  in  the  next 
four  years.  After  using  moral  suasion  and  emotional  appeal,  the 
prohibitionists  found  their  most  effective  method  of  influence  in  legal 
coercion.  The  Civil  War,  however,  brought  about  a  slump  in  all  reform, 
dry  or  otherwise. 


AFTER  THE  Civil  War,  the  prohibitionists  found  new  weapons.  Medical 
research  into  the  effects  of  alcohol  was  flourishing,  particularly  in 
Germany,  Scandinavia,  and  Great  Britain.  The  early  findings  of  scien- 
tists were  usually  against  the  use  of  liquor.  Veneration  for  science  was 
increasing  in  America  itself.  The  temperance  societies  set  out  to  diffuse 
the  results  of  medical  research  through  pamphlet  and  pulpit.  But  they 
were  careful  ta  diffuse  only  that  scientific  data  which  was  in  line  with 
their  beliefs.  (The  research  which  supportedJGqds  ban  against  drink 
was  good;  the  research  which  found  for  the  n^oderate  use  of  liquor 
was  faulty,  biased,  bought,  or  downright  evilJfThe  drys  perfected 


techniques  for  misrepresenting  scientific  experiments,  for  quoting  out 
of  context,  for  making  final  dogmas  out  of  interim  reports,  and  for 
manufacturing  literary  water  bottles  out  of  laboratory  test  tubes.8 

Instances  of  the  misuse  of  medicine  by  the  prohibitionists  are  legion. 
Dr.  Thomas  Sewall  made  six  drawings  of  the  stomachs  of  corpses. 
These  drawings  were  labeled  "Healthful,"  "Moderate  Drinking," 
"Drunkard's,"  "Ulcerous,"  "After  a  Long  Debauch,"  and  "Death  by 
Delirium  Tremens."  Reproductions  of  these  were  made  for  seventy 
years  by  the  drys.  The  violent  pigments  of  Grand  Guignol  were  used 
to  terrify  the  simple  into  teetotalism.9  Another  favorite  trick  of  tem- 
perance lecturers  was  to  drop  the  contents  of  an  egg  into  a  glass  of 
pure  alcohol  and  to  tell  their  audiences  that  the  curdled  mess  was 
similar  to  the  effect  of  liquor  on  the  lining  of  the  human  stomach.  A 
similar  horror  technique  was  the  threat  of  spontaneous  combustion. 
The  medical  journals  of  the  1830's  and  Charles  Dickens,  in  Bleak 
House,  testified  that  drunkards  might  suddenly  catch  fire  and  burn  to 
death,  breathing  out  blue  flame.  The  idea  that  children  conceived  in 
drunkenness  would  be  born  defective  was  stressed  and  documented.10 

Widespread  use  was  made  of  medical  statistics  to  win  over  the 
intelligent.  The  dry  propagandists  were  among  the  first  to  discover 
the  modern  device  of  bemusing  the  opposition  with  facts  and  figures, 
while  forgetting  to  mention  any  contrary  evidence.  Laitinen's  studies 
of  twenty  thousand  Finnish  children  were  widely  touted  to  show,  to 
two  places  of  decimals,  that  drinkers  lost  more  of  their  children  than 
abstainers.11  Contemporary  studies  of  three  thousand  English  chil- 
dren were  ignored  because  they  seemed  to  prove  that  drinking  parents 
did  not  lose  more  of  their  children.12  The  drys  wanted  to  show  that 
parents  who  used  liquor  were  murderers  of  unborn  babies.  Their 
selected  statistics  merely  buttressed  their  preconceptions.  It  was  un- 
fortunate that  their  devotion  to  their  cause  exceeded  their  devotion 
to  scientific  truth. 

Another  fault  of  the  drys  was  argument  by  false  inference.  For 
instance,  in  the  same  year  that  Stockard  was  writing,  on  the  basis 
of  his  experiments,  that  "it  is  highly  improbable  that  the  quality  of 
human  stock  has  been  at  all  injured  or  adversely  modified  by  the  long 
use  of  alcohol,"13  the  eighteenth  edition  of  a  phenomenally  successful 
dry  textbook  on  hygiene,  How  to  Live:  Rules  for  Healthful  Living 
Based  on  Modern  Science,  still  stated  that  "Dr.  Stockard  has  also 
shown  in  mice,  on  which  he  has  experimented,  the  effect  of  alcohol  on 
the  germ-plasm  is  distinctly  injurious.  It  is  a  fair  inference  that  the 
use  of  alcohol  by  parents  tends  to  damage  the  offspring."14  The  same 
textbook  quoted  evidence  by  an  obscure  doctor  in  Battle  Creek  that 
nicotine  sometimes  produced  degeneration  and  sterility  among  rats. 


Defective  Children 

hcreased  With 


Among  th»  0*fo«f«  iv*r»  KpU*p*y.  *••*/«.  m//»rf*tf/>*««  and  St.  f/tu«  0o/>c« 

219  Children  of  Occasional  Drinkers 


130  Children  of  Regular  Moderate  Drinkers 
67  Children  of  Regular  Heavy  Drinkers 
S3  Children  of  Drunkards 

Alcoholism  and  Defects  of  Brain 
and  Nerves  Go  Hand  in  Hand 

Bunge:     Graphische   Labellen   Zur   Alkolfrage,   1907,  p.    169. 


"This  fact  should  at  least  give  the  human  parent  pause."15 

Argument  by  analogy  was  another  favorite  method  of  the  prohibi- 
tionists. Contemporary  scientists  frequently  experimented  with  the 
effects  of  alcohol  on  small  animals.  Although  they  were  careful  to  say 
that  the  results  of  their  experiments  could  not  be  applied  to  the  human 
species,  the  drys  repeated  time  and  time  again  that  human  babies 
would  suffer  from  drunken  parents  as  badly  as  the  litters  of  intoxicated 
dogs,  fowls,  guinea  pigs,  mice,  frogs,  rabbits,  and  albino  rats.16  What 
hurt  a  rat  would  hurt  a  man.  Were  not  both  living  creatures?  Yet  the 
same  people  who  argued  that  a  man  who  drank  a  cocktail  a  day  might 
harm  his  children  as  much  as  an  alcoholic  rat  his  posterity  were  the 
leaders  of  the  fundamentalist  crusade  against  evolution.  When  William 
Jennings  Bryan  rose  to  defend  the  Bible  against  Darwin  in  Tennessee, 
his  dry  supporters  could  see  no  correspondence  between  men  and 




61  CHdrtnta  10  Very  Temper*  Farife  57 Cttta  to  10  MM**  Mis 

^Modfato  fancy  26  DM  Jn  In  fancy 

Mad  *fc  1/H  urn  Dane*  1  Heal  St.  Vftu9  Donee  ~  IdMfc 

2W9r*Baekward.  not  Idiot*  e  Ww*  Idiotic 

^vere  Deformeof  $  Wer*  Deformed 

^^     ^^  Hi     ^H     ••     ••     •• 


5O  were  Normal 

•I      ••      Hi     •§     • 


Demme:  The  Influence  of  Alcohol  on  the  Child.  Investi- 
gations in  Berne,  Switzerland,  1878-1889.  Families  lived 
in  same  section  and  were  similarly  situated  except  as 
regards  intemperance. 


Often  the  drys  wrote  straight  lies  about  medical  research.  Experi- 
ments on  thirty  thousand  white  mice  showed  that  alcoholized  parents 
did  not  produce  defective  progeny.17  Although  the  fertility  of  the  mice 
was  decreased,  this  selective  process  strengthened  the  species.  Yet  the 
Scientific  Temperance  Journal,  the  compendium  of  medical  knowledge 
for  the  drys,  continued  to  quote  the  results  of  these  experiments  as 
proof  of  their  belief  that  alcohol  caused  "a  persistent  transmissible 
injury  to  the  males/'18  Up  to  the  present  day,  alcohol  is  still  miscalled 
a  poison  in  temperance  publications,  although  it  is  no  more  than  a 
mild  sedative  if  taken  in  small  quantities. 

The  brewers  and  distillers  also  distorted  and  suppressed  medical 

42   /   THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

evidence,  although  they  were  less  efficient  than  the  prohibitionists. 
They  insisted  on  calling  beer  'liquid  bread";  the  drys  retorted  by  call- 
ing apples  "God  s  bottles"  and  by  saying  that  the  wets  might  as  well 
caU  a  chaw  of  tobacco  "liquid  milk."19  The  United  States  Brewers' 
Association  tried  to  influence  students  in  its  favor  by  putting  out  a 
bibliography  entitled  Five  Feet  of  Information  for  Impartial  Students 
of  the  Liquor  Problem.  But  the  impartiality  of  the  recommended  read- 
ing was  questionable.  Highly  praised  was  Dr.  Robert  Park's  The  Case 
for  Alcohol,  or  the  Action  of  Alcohol  on  Body  and  Soul.  This  treatise 
stated  that  "man  is  made  for  Alcohol,  or  Alcohol  is  made  for  man, 
which  comes  to  the  same  thing.  On  the  meat  side,  Alcohol  is  a  sort 
of  broth  prepared  specially  with  loving  care  and  evident  skill.  .  .  . 
Alcohol  is  an  aliment  superior  to  sugar;  the  reason  for  that  being  that 
for  the  same  weight  it  contains  more  aliment."20  Similar  claims  for  the 
food  value  of  liquor  were  made  until  the  brewers  realized  in  the  thir- 
ties that  they  were  depriving  themselves  of  half  their  market.21  Women 
would  not  drink  liquor  which  might  make  them  fatter.  Since  that 
time,  advertisements  for  beer  and  spirits  have  stressed  the  refreshing 
qualities  or  snob  value  of  a  particular  brand  of  drink. 

But  until  the  passing  of  prohibition  and  the  reversal  of  their  roles, 
the  drys  were  always  on  the  attack  and  the  wets  on  the  defense.  The 
drys  chose  their  battleground,  and  the  wets  had  to  meet  them  there. 
Eugenics  was  the  fashionable  science,  and  the  wets  could  not  deny  its 
claims.  Percy  Andreae,  the  chief  publicity  expert  of  the  brewers,  had  to 
confess  to  the  New  Jersey  State  Chamber  of  Commerce  in  1915  that 
"race-betterment  has  become  the  dominant  —  well,  I  will  not  say  fad, 
because  the  subject  is  too  sacred  —  but  let  me  say  the  dominant  trend 
of  our  age."22  His  only  reply  to  the  dry  arguments  for  purifying  the 
racial  stock  by  prohibition  of  liquor  was  a  plea  for  happiness,  which 
involved  the  claim  that  men  could  not  be  happy  without  alcohol. 
Even  the  more  determined  counterattacks  of  other  writers,  subsidized 
by  the  brewers,  were  curiously  ineffective.  They  merely  maintained 
that  the  drys  were  materialists  and  often  ate  too  much,  which  was 
equally  bad  for  their  health.  As  for  wet  degeneracy, 

.  .  .  people  should  understand  that,  far  from  indicating  a  superior 
moral  status,  the  aversion  to  alcohol  is  a  symptom  of  physical,  moral 
or  mental  defectiveness,  or  inferior,  sub-normal  nature,  not  so  far  out 
of  the  normal  as  to  be  classed  as  decidedly  diseased,  or  degenerate, 
but  nevertheless  far  enough  out  of  the  road  of  health  to  be  called 

Until  the  coming  of  national  prohibition,  the  whole  history  of  dry 
and  wet  medical  propaganda  was  a  history  of  misrepresentation  un- 
worthy of  the  declared  aims  of  its  writers. 

THE    EXPLOITED    TERROR   /   43 

ANOTHER  DIFFERENCE  in  the  dry  campaign  after  1870  was  its  emphasis 
on  education.  The  minds  of  children  had  been  influenced  in  churches 
and  Sunday  schools.  But  they  were  taught  little  about  the  evils  of 
liquor  in  the  public  schools,  except  by  the  ubiquitous  McGuffey 
Readers.  Dr.  McGuffey  was  a  friend  of  John  B.  Gough  and  an  advo- 
cate of  temperance.  His  textbooks  and  readers,  of  which  122,000,000 
copies  were  sold  between  1836  and  1920,  formed  the  minds  of  country 
Protestant  America.  Many  farmhouses,  such  as  Ed  Howe's  childhood 
home  in  Missouri,  possessed  a  library  only  of  religious  books,  the 
Christian  Advocate,  and  McGuffey  Readers.24  The  texts  taught  the 
virtues  of  thrift,  labor,  obedience,  duty  to  God,  and  temperance.  They 
helped  to  create  the  climate  of  decency  and  informed  prejudice  which 
made  the  passing  of  prohibition  legislation  possible. 

Temperance  teaching  was  incidental,  however,  to  McGuffey's  pur- 
pose. It  was  only  one  method  among  others  to  produce  the  restrained 
and  dutiful  child  who  was  admired  in  nineteenth-century  America.  A 
lesson  such  as  "The  Whisky  Boy,"  which  traced  the  decline  of  John 
from  early  drinking  of  whisky  to  death  in  the  poorhouse,  was  more 
concerned  with  showing  liquor  as  the  enemy  of  industry  than  as  sinful 
in  itself.  Another  lesson,  "Don't  Take  Strong  Drink,"  did  make  the 
point  that  "No  drunkard  shall  inherit  the  kingdom  of  heaven,"  but  its 
main  emphasis  was  on  the  evil  which  liquor  brought  to  this  life. 
"Whisky  makes  the  happy  miserable  and  it  causes  the  rich  to  be 

McGuffey  was  more  interested  in  stressing  the  social  rewards  of 
temperance  than  in  frightening  his  readers  into  virtue.  He  wanted  to 
bring  some  form  of  civilization  to  the  frontier  through  the  school- 
house.  His  attacks  on  drunkenness  and  gambling  were  more  the  at- 
tacks on  specific  evils  than  on  the  trade  in  alcohol.  In  fact,  the  extreme 
prohibitionists  thought  that  too  little  was  being  done  to  win  the 
children  to  the  dry  banner.  They  decided  to  increase  the  amount  of 
temperance  teaching  in  the  public  schools. 

Six  years  after  its  founding  in  1873,  the  Woman's  Christian  Temper- 
ance Union  adopted  Mrs.  Mary  Hannah  Hunt's  plan  for  introducing 
compulsory  temperance  education.  Mrs.  Hunt  was  put  in  charge  of  a 
Department  of  Scientific  Temperance  Instruction,  which  cajoled  and 
bullied  Congress  and  the  state  legislatures  into  passing  laws  requiring 
temperance  teaching  in  the  public  schools.  By  1902,  every  state  and 
territory  except  Arizona  had  such  a  law.  That  day  seemed  near  which 
Mrs.  Hunt  had  predicted  was  "surely  coming  when  from  the  school 

44   /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

houses  all  over  the  land  will  come  trained  haters  of  alcohol  to  pour 
a  whole  Niagara  of  ballots  upon  the  saloon." 

But  laws  were  not  enough.  The  temperance  textbooks  had  to  be 
rewritten  to  include  the  selected  medical  knowledge  approved  by  the 
dry  leaders.  There  can  be  no  indoctrination  without  misrepresentation. 
Mrs.  Hunt  set  about  changing  the  teaching  of  a  nation.  In  1887,  she 
circulated  to  all  publishers  of  textbooks  on  hygiene  and  physiology  a 
petition  signed  by  two  hundred  leading  prohibitionists.  This  petition 
requested  that  all  textbooks  should  teach  that  ''alcohol  is  a  dangerous 
and  seductive  poison";  that  fermentation  turns  beer  and  wine  and 
cider  from  a  food  into  poison;  that  a  little  liquor  creates  by  its  nature 
the  appetite  for  more;  and  that  degradation  and  crime  result  from 
alcohol.  The  textbooks  on  hygiene  should  contain  at  least  one-quarter 
of  temperance  teaching  and  should  be  suited  to  the  minds  of  the  chil- 
dren in  each  grade.  If  these  conditions  were  observed,  a  board  of 
professors,  clergymen,  reformers,  and  doctors  picked  by  the  Woman's 
Christian  Temperance  Union  would  endorse  tie  books.26  As  the  pro- 
hibitionists were  influential  on  most  of  the  school  boards  in  the  country 
and  had  the  power  to  buy  textbooks,  the  publishers  soon  fell  into  line. 
Before  her  death  in  1906,  Mrs.  Hunt  could  point  to  more  than  forty 
endorsed  texts  in  use  all  over  the  country  in  public  schools,  of  which  the 
numbers  doubled  between  the  turn  of  the  century  and  the  Great  War. 
Mrs.  Hunt  saw  the  struggle  for  the  children's  minds  as  more  than  a 
matter  of  pressure  politics  or  economics.  Her  obituary  said  that  "the 
fundamental  and  motivating  power  of  her  intense  and  fruitful  activity 
was  the  belief  in  the  divine  plan  for  mankind  which  alcohol  must  not 
be  allowed  to  mar,  coupled  with  the  conviction  that  through  the  chil- 
dren the  race  would  be  saved.**27  Her  belief  in  destiny  and  her  con- 
cern for  the  Anglo-Saxon  race  was  sufficient  to  make  her  rate  her  job 
as  a  revolutionary  crusade.  "Childhood  saved  today  from  the  saloon, 
and  the  nation  thus  saved  tomorrow,  is  the  stake  played  for  in  this 
desperate  game,"  she  wrote  in  1887.  "All  that  is  holiest  in  mother-love, 
all  that  is  purest  in  the  patriotism  that  would  save  the  country  from 
the  saloon,  for  God  and  humanity,  enters  into  our  opposition,  or  our 
support  of  these  books/'28  In  her  terms,  there  was  no  room  for  any 
scientific  defense  of  the  moderate  use  of  alcohol.  The  only  medical 
evidence  deemed  ''scientific''  was  that  which  supported  the  prohibition 
of  liquor. 

The  moderates  and  the  wets  realized  too  late  that  the  drys  had 
spread  the  idea  of  their  infallibility  on  the  subject  of  alcohol.  After 
nearly  a  century  of  rarely  disputed  teaching,  backed  by  a  majority 
of  the  Protestant  churches  and  by  Congress,  the  prohibitionists  seemed 
to  have  authority  and  tradition  behind  their  statements.  Alcohol  re- 


search  was  their  preserve.  Until  the  passing  of  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment, the  only  strong  challenge  to  the  dry  dogmas  came  from  the 
findings  of  the  Committee  of  Fifty,  a  group  of  scholars  and  business- 
men interested  in  temperance,  who  sponsored  research  studies  at  the 
turn  of  the  century.  Their  physiological  subcommittee  examined  the 
dry  misuse  of  methods  of  education.  The  subcommittee  deplored  the 
rewriting  of  the  textbooks  on  hygiene  by  Mrs.  Hunt  and  her  helpers. 
It  noted  the  false  statements  in  the  endorsed  textbooks  and  the  careful 
flattery  paid  to  their  obscure  authors,  who  were  introduced  as  "the 
greatest  living  authority"  or  "the  foremost  scientist"  or  "an  eminent 

The  members  of  the  subcommittee  examined  carefully  twenty-three 
of  the  endorsed  textbooks  from  seven  publishers.  They  noted  that  pub- 
lishers found  it  difficult  at  times  to  sell  textbooks  which  were  not 
endorsed.  They  found  many  misleading  statements  and  deliberate 
attempts  to  frighten  young  children  in  the  dry  texts.  Some  of  the  more 
horrific  statements  read: 

A  cat  or  dog  may  be  killed  by  causing  it  to  drink  a  small  quantity  of 
alcohol.  A  boy  once  drank  whisky  from  a  flask  he  had  found,  and  died 
in  a  few  hours.  .  .  . 

Alcohol  sometimes  causes  the  coats  of  the  blood  vessels  to  grow 
thin.  They  are  then  liable  at  any  time  to  cause  death  by  bursting.  .  .  . 

It  often  happens  that  the  children  of  those  who  drink  have  weak 
minds  or  become  crazy  as  they  grow  older.  .  .  . 

Worse  than  all,  when  alcohol  is  constantly  used,  it  may  slowly 
change  the  muscles  of  the  heart  into  fat.  Such  a  heart  cannot  be  so 
strong  as  if  it  were  all  muscle.  It  is  sometimes  so  soft  that  a  finger 
could  easily  be  pushed  through  its  walls.  You  can  think  what  would 
happen  if  it  is  made  to  work  a  litde  harder  than  usual.  It  is  liable  to 
stretch  and  stop  beating  and  this  would  cause  sudden  death.29 

In  their  final  summary,  the  subcommittee  called  for  a  "prolonged 
struggle  ...  to  free  our  public  school  system  from  the  incubus  which 
rests  upon  it/'30  Mary  Hunt  immediately  retaliated  by  having  a  resolu- 
tion passed  by  the  United  States  Senate.  The  Committee  of  Fifty  was 
wrong  in  its  allegations  that  the  textbooks  were  unscientific  and 
imposed  on  the  public  schools.  It  was  ridiculous  to  suppose  that  an 
unaided  woman  could  have  caused  all  the  states  to  pass  laws  for  the 
teaching  of  temperance  without  wide  popular  support  and  much 
rational  discussion.  "The  American  public,"  the  resolution  stated,  "is 
too  intelligent,  too  patriotic,  and  too  conscientious  to  have  adopted 
this  movement  hastily  or  to  retire  from  it  in  the  face  of  the  good  it  is 
doing."81  That  the  good  was  questionable  was  shown  by  the  answers 
of  Massachusetts  schoolchildren  to  questions  on  alcohol,  after  they  had 


been  taught  from  dry  texts.  One  answer  stated  that  alcohol  would 
"pickel  the  inside  of  the  body,"  while  another  affirmed  that  the  stomach 
of  a  drinker  became  "black  and  covered  with  cancers."32 

In  the  eighty  years  before  the  passing  of  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment, the  drys  had  a  near  monopoly  of  the  means  by  which  the  results 
of  research  on  alcohol  reached  the  voters.  The  minds  of  a  whole 
generation  had  been  conditioned  to  feel  guilty  every  time  that  they 
took  a  drink  of  liquor.  They  had  been  told  time  and  time  again,  in 
school  and  at  church  and  on  the  science  pages  of  the  newspapers,  that 
alcohol  harmed  them  and  their  children.  However  much  a  man  wanted 
liquor,  he  might  vote  to  deprive  himself  of  the  temptation,  as  did 
Thomas  Wolfe's  drunken  Oliver  Gant,  pressured  by  his  wife  until  he 
"piously  contributed  his  vote  for  purity."83  A  secret  shame  made  many 
a  drinker  support  the  drys.  He  had  been  taught  to  fear  his  own  weak- 
ness and  the  bad  opinion  of  his  teetotal  betters.  Like  Babbitt,  the 
respectable  voter  disliked  being  known  as  a  Drinker  even  more  than 
he  liked  a  drink. 


THE  DRYS  used  other  potent  weapons  in  the  second  wave  of  prohibition. 
What  appeared  to  be  their  greatest  threat,  the  Prohibition  party, 
founded  in  1869,  was  the  least.  Party  political  action  helped  their 
cause  far  less  than  psychological  conditioning.  Until  a  large  enough 
group  of  people  had  been  guided  toward  their  policies,  the  Prohibi- 
tionists would  lose  at  the  polls.  And  so,  partly  consciously  and  partly 
subconsciously,  the  temperance  forces  worked  on  those  hidden  urges 
in  America  and  Americans  which  might  help  them.  The  emotion  which 
they  exploited  was  fear:  the  fear  of  sin  and  God;  the  fear  of  race 
against  race  and  skin  against  skin;  the  fear  of  venereal  diseases;  the 
fear  of  idiot  children;  the  fear  of  violence  suppressed  by  conscience 
and  loosed  by  liquor;  and  the  dark  sexual  fears  of  civilization.  Francis 
Bacon  may  have  found  nothing  terrible  except  fear  itself.  But  the  fear 
of  others  was  the  hope  of  the  drys. 

The  prohibitionists  claimed  that  the  drinking  of  alcohol  was  more 
than  a  crime  against  God.  It  was  a  crime  against  society,  self,  and 
race.  According  to  them,  the  findings  of  medicine  and  science  proved 
absolutely  that  alcohol  turned  even  the  moderate  drinker  into  the 
bad  citizen,  who  infected  his  innocent  children  with  the  diseases  of 
liquor.  Wise  men  from  the  time  of  Plato  had  warned  parents  against 
drinking  before  procreation.  Degenerate  offspring  was  the  result  of 
abuse  of  the  bottle.  "The  history  of  heredity  conducts  us  to  alcoholism, 
and  these  two  should  be  considered  the  principal  causes  of  degenera- 


tion."84  As  the  consumption  of  alcohol  rose,  so  the  quality  of  the  racial 
stock  declined.  There  was  only  one  way  to  give  "posterity  a  square 
dear:  that  was  to  keep  a  father  from  "faulty  habits"  and  to  prevent 
him  from  passing  on  to  his  child  a  feeble  constitution.85  The  drys 
echoed  the  words  of  Dr.  J.  W.  Ballantyne,  of  Edinburgh,  "Alcohol  is  a 
danger  from  one  conception,  from  one  procreation,  to  another;  there 
is  no  time  under  the  sun  when  it  is  suitable  or  safe  to  court  intoxica- 

Evolution,  heredity,  and  eugenics  were  the  chief  scientific  concerns 
of  the  laymen  between  the  Civil  War  and  the  Great  Depression.87  The 
ideas  of  the  survival  of  the  fittest  and  of  the  danger  posed  to  American 
ideals  by  the  inferior  immigrant  masses  were  popular  everywhere. 
This  widespread  concern  was  the  most  powerful  ideological  club  of 
the  drys.  They  trumpeted  abroad  that  prohibition  would  strengthen 
the  American  stock,  already  degenerating  fast  under  immigration  and 
the  attacks  of  the  Siamese  twins,  alcohol  and  venereal  disease.  As 
late  as  1927,  a  Frenchman  in  the  United  States  was  still  warning 
visitors  from  Europe  to  take  a  treatise  on  eugenics  with  them  as  well 
as  a  Bible.  Armed  with  these  two  talismans,,  he  assured  them  that  they 
would  never  get  beyond  their  depth.88 

The  drys  set  out  to  prove  that  alcohol  was  a  race  poison.  They  were 
helped  by  the  early  scientific  experiments  with  alcohol  on  animals,  by 
the  belief  of  most  of  the  eugenic  experts,  and  by  the  current  folklore 
that  a  taste  for  liquor  could  even  be  inherited  through  the  nipple  of  a 
drunken  nurse.*  According  to  such  influential  British  eugenicists  as 
Caleb  W.  Saleeby,  all  theories  of  heredity,  those  of  Lamarck  and 
Weismann  and  Mendel  and  Darwin's  pangenesis,  made  out  that  the 
drunkard  must  not  have  children.  Alcohol,  as  well  as  destroying  de- 
generates, made  degenerates.  Alcoholism  was  both  a  cause  and  a  symp- 
tom of  degeneracy.  The  main  source  of  the  supply  of  drunkards  was 
the  drunkard  himself.  Parents  might  ignore  the  fact  that  spirits  were 
a  racial  poison,  but  their  selfishness  ruined  the  unborn.  There  was  an 
urgent  need  to  save  first  women  and  children  from  alcohol,  then 
fathers  and  possible  fathers.  Otherwise,  the  noblest  races  in  the  world, 
the  English  and  the  Scotch  and  the  French,  would  be  conquered  by 
alcoholic  imperialism.  Those  who  defended  the  alcoholic  poisoning  of 
the  race  were  easily  classified.  Some  few  stood  honestly  for  liberty. 
They  would  rather  see  their  country  free  than  sober,  not  asking  in  what 
sense  a  drunken  country  could  be  called  free.  Some  were  merely 

*  In  Uunsey's,  September,  1917,  Professor  Reginald  Daly,  of  Harvard,  accused 
the  Germans  of  giving  their  children  a  brutal  streak  by  introducing  them  to 
alcohol  too  young.  "If  the  [German]  baby  has  not  been  already  prenatally  dam- 
aged because  of  beer  drunk  by  his  mother,  he  still  runs  the  risk  of  poisoning  from 
the  alcohol-bearing  milk  of  a  drinking  mother  or  wet  nurse." 


irritated  by  the  temperance  fanatic.  Many  feared  that  their  personal 
comfort  might  be  interfered  with. 

But  probably  the  overwhelming  majority  are  concerned  with  their 
pockets.  They  live  by  this  cannibal  trade;  by  selling  death  and  the 
slaughter  of  babies,  feeble-mindedness  and  insanity,  consumption  and 
worse  diseases,  crime  and  pauperism,  degradation  of  body  and  mind 
in  a  thousand  forms,  to  the  present  generation  and  therefore  to  the 
future,  the  unconsulted  party  to  the  bargain.  Their  motto  is  "your 
money  and  your  life."39 

Professor  Saleeby  was  mild  in  his  denunciation  of  alcohol  as  a  racial 
poison  compared  with  his  American  contemporaries.  One  Kentucky 
horse  breeder  demanded  in  1917  the  right  of  all  Americans  to  be  well- 
born. Anyone  who  had  studied  eugenics  could  "discover  if  a  child 
comes  from  a  parent  or  parents  addicted  to  drink,  just  as  well  as  from 
parents  that  have  syphilis.  ....  Every  drink  taken  by  young  people  is 
a  menace  to  the  nation.  Children  conceived  of  parents,  who,  at  the 
moment  of  conception,  are  under  the  effect  of  liquor,  often  are  stupid 
or  brainless  and  inherit  the  taste  for  liquor/'  Drinking  by  young  mar- 
ried people  was  a  conspiracy  to  destroy  half  of  their  children.  "It 
would  be  less  cruel  to  dispose  of  children  at  birth  than  to  allow  the 
indiscriminate  use  of  liquor  by  men  and  women  who  are  to  become 

But  the  most  popular  of  all  the  writers  or  speakers  on  the  subject 
of  race  degeneracy  through  alcohol  was  the  great  orator  Richmond 
Pearson  Hobson.  The  hero  of  the  sinking  of  the  Mernmac  in  Santiago 
harbor  in  the  war  in  Cuba,  Captain  Hobson  was  held  by  George  Jean 
Nathan  to  be  the  most  dashing  figure  of  romance  for  American  women 
until  the  coming  of  Valentino.  He  turned  his  talents  to  lecturing  and 
representing  Alabama  in  Congress.  In  December,  1914,  he  introduced 
in  the  House  of  Representatives  an  early  version  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  to  the  Constitution.  During  the  following  nine  years,  he 
lectured  for  forty  or  fifty  weeks  a  year  for  the  Anti-Saloon  League, 
earning  the  incredible  total  of  $171,250  in  that  time.41 

One  of  his  speeches  was  endlessly  repeated  before  audiences  on 
the  Chautauqua  circuit  and  in  Congress.  It  was  called  "The  Great 
Destroyer."  Hobson  saw  the  history  of  the  world  as  the  history  of 
alcohol.  Civilizations  rose  with  prohibition  and  temperance,  only  to 
decline  with  luxury  and  liquor.  In  the  past  2300  years  of  civilized  his- 
tory, war  had  killed  off  five  times  fewer  people  among  the  white  races 
than  alcohol  killed  each  year  in  modem  times.  Furthermore,  125,000,- 
000  living  people  with  white  skins  were  presently  harmed  by  liquor. 
Alcohol  destroyed  yearly  over  half  of  America's  wealth  and  tainted 


half  her  people.  A  man  had  to  be  selfish  to  oppose  prohibition.  "A  man 
may  take  chances  with  himself,  but  if  he  has  a  spark  of  nobility  in  his 
soul,  he  will  take  care  how  he  tampers  with  a  deadly  poison  that  will 
cause  the  helpless  little  children  that  he  brings  into  the  world  to  be 
deformed,  idiotic,  epileptic,  insane/'  Moreover,  the  decay  of  civiliza- 
tions showed  that  a  nation  only  survived  while  the  good  country  life 
ruled  over  the  evil  cities. 

As  young  as  our  Nation  is,  the  deadly  work  of  alcohol  has  already 
blighted  liberty  in  our  greatest  cities.  At  the  present  rate  of  the  growth 
of  cities  over  country  life,  if  no  check  is  put  upon  the  spread  of  alco- 
holic degeneracy,  the  day  cannot  be  far  distant  when  liberty  in  great 
States  must  go  under.  It  will  then  be  but  a  question  of  time  when  the 
average  standard  of  character  of  the  Nation's  electorate  will  fall  below 
that  inexorable  minimum,  and  liberty  will  take  her  flight  from  America, 
as  she  did  from  Greece  and  Rome. 

The  death  grapple  of  the  races  was  already  imminent.  If  the  United 
States  became  degenerate  under  the  influence  of  the  great  destroyer, 
alcohol,  the  yellow  man  would  take  over  the  world. 

In  America  the  star  of  empire  moving  westward  finishes  the  circle 
of  the  world.  In  America  we  are  making  the  last  stand  of  the  great 
white  race,  and  substantially  of  the  human  race.  If  this  destroyer  can 
not  be  conquered  in  young  America,  it  can  not  in  any  of  the  old  and 
more  degenerate  nations.  If  America  fails,  the  world  will  be  undone 
and  the  human  race  will  be  doomed  to  go  down  from  degeneracy  into 
degeneracy  till  the  Almighty  in  wrath  wipes  the  accursed  thing  out.42 

This  complex  of  racism  and  nationalism  based  on  sexual  fears  of 
disease  was  repeated  over  and  over  again  by  the  advocates  of  pro- 
hibition. The  Census  figures  of  1910  which  showed  that  the  wicked 
city-dwellers  and  the  foreign-born  and  their  children  were  nearly  half 
of  the  population  of  the  United  States  drove  the  drys  wild  with  the 
sense  of  urgency.  National  prohibition  had  to  come.  It  would  save 
the  inferior  hordes  of  Eastern  Europe  from  themselves  and  preserve  the 
strength  of  the  Anglo-Saxon  stock.  In  1913,  the  same  year  that  the 
Anti-Saloon  League  adopted  its  policy  of  seeking  national  prohibition, 
an  extreme  dry  was  writing,  "By  continuing  the  alcoholization  of  the 
immigrant  we  are  bringing  ourselves  dangerously  near  to  the  time 
when  the  question  will  not  be  what  America  will  do  for  the  immigrant 
but  what  the  immigrant  will  do  for  America."48  The  old  America  of 
the  country  was  being  threatened;  the  ideals  of  the  Republic  were 
being  attacked.  Something  had  to  be  done. 



THERE  is  an  important  and  unwritten  history  of  the  Western  world. 
Its  subject  is  the  influence  of  venereal  diseases  on  the  culture  and 
morals  of  societies.  The  records  of  such  a  history  would  be  hard  to 
discover.  And  it  would  be  harder  to  calculate  the  exact  influence  of 
the  fear  of  the  diseases.  How  much  repression,  how  much  unhappiness, 
how  much  moral  legislation  has  been  caused  by  dread  of  the  pox?  No 
one  can  tell;  because  few,  except  the  prohibitionists,  have  declared 
their  real  motives  and  terrors.  It  has  been  said  with  some  truth  that 
the  brothel  is  the  bricks  of  the  church.  It  is  more  certain  that  syphilis 
was  the  cement  of  the  drys. 

In  the  nineteenth  century,  the  words  "syphilis"  and  "gonorrhea" 
were  taboo,  except  among  doctors  or  among  ministers  attending  meet- 
ings of  The  National  Christian  League  for  the  Promotion  of  Purity. 
The  use  of  the  precise  words  describing  these  widespread  diseases 
was  as  difficult  as  the  use  now  of  the  legal  term  "buggery."  Although 
everyone  knew  of  the  two  diseases  by  some  sort  of  whispering  grape- 
vine, no  one  called  them  by  their  true  names.  The  consequences  of 
sleeping  with  infected  prostitutes  were  referred  to  as  "the  dread 
disease,"  "the  fruits  of  sin,"  "the  infant's  blight,"  "the  social  horror," 
and  "the  awful  harvest."  Venereal  diseases  were  usually  lumped  to- 
gether with  the  concept  of  alcohol  as  a  racial  poison.  For  instance, 
the  National  Temperance  Almanac,  in  its  Second  Declaration  of  In- 
dependence in  1876,  attacked  King  Alcohol  in  general  for  his  rule: 

He  has  occasioned  more  than  three-fourths  of  the  pauperism,  three- 
fourths  of  the  crime,  and  more  than  one-half  of  the  insanity  in  the 
community,  and  thereby  filled  our  prisons,  our  alms-houses  and  luna- 
tic asylums,  and  erected  the  gibbet  before  our  eyes. 

He  has  destroyed  the  lives  of  tens  of  thousands  of  our  citizens 
annually  in  the  most  merciless  manner. 

He  has  turned  aside  hundreds  of  thousands  more  of  our  free  and 
independent  citizens  to  idleness  and  vice,  infused  into  them  the  spirit 
of  demons,  and  degraded  them  below  the  level  of  brutes. 

He  has  made  thousands  of  widows  and  orphans,  and  destroyed  the 
fondest  hopes  and  blasted  the  brightest  prospects. 

He  has  introduced  among  us  hereditary  diseases,  both  physical  and 
mental,  thereby  tending  to  deteriorate  the  human  race.44 

This  indictment  of  liquor  did  not,  however,  state  the  actual  diseases 
which  alcohol  was  supposed  to  cause.  The  shocking  detail  of  these 
plagues  was  left  to  hearsay  and  the  imagination. 

By  the  turn  of  the  century,  social  reformers  were  more  ready  tc 


call  venereal  disease  "venereal."  The  first  reliable  statistics  were  too 
horrifying  to  ignore.  The  secretary  of  the  Illinois  Vigilance  Committee 
estimated  that  there  were  eighty  thousand  known  cases  of  venereal 
disease  in  Chicago  in  1910.  In  Syracuse,  New  York,  the  known  cases 
were  over  three  people  in  every  hundred.45  And  these  were  only  the 
known  cases.  Estimates  of  the  unknown  were  huge.  In  1913,  a  leading 
dry  claimed  to  show  "three-fifths  of  the  rising  generation  mentally  and 
physically  diseased."46  Richmond  Pearson  Hobson  supported  this 
claim,  saying,  "Probably,  certainly,  more  than  fifty  per  cent  of  adult 
males  are  tainted  with  some  form  of  terrible  vice  disease,  the  whelp 
of  liquor/*  The  solution  was  simple:  "If  we  make  the  world  sober,  we 
solve  the  vice  disease,  the  vice  problem.  If  we  win  our  great  reform, 
we  eliminate  racial  poison."47  In  actual  fact,  it  is  unlikely  that  many 
more  than  one  in  ten  Americans  suffered  from  venereal  diseases  at  that 
time.  The  reasonable  estimate  of  the  dry  Josephus  Daniels  made  out 
that  8  per  cent  of  the  American  population  suffered  from  syphilis, 
while  more  fell  victim  to  gonorrhea.48 

The  prohibitionists  used  venereal  disease  as  they  used  other  medical 
facts,  as  a  weapon  of  distortion  and  terror.  They  wanted  to  scare  peo- 
ple into  chastity  and  purity  and  temperance.  To  point  out  the  ad- 
vantages of  these  states  was  not  enough.  One  of  the  posters  issued  by 
the  press  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  in  1913  advertised  THE  EFFECT 
OF  ALCOHOL  ON  SEX  LIFE.  It  declared  in  bold  black  type  that 
sex  life  was  dominated  by  a  compelling  instinct  as  natural  as  eating 
and  drinking.  The  laws  of  custom  and  modern  civilization  demanded 
that  sex  life  be  under  the  control  of  reason,  judgment,  and  will. 
Alcohol  made  all  natural  instincts  stronger,  and  weakened  judgment 
and  will,  through  which  control  acted.  Alcohol  and  all  drinks  of  which 
alcohol  formed  even  a  small  part  were  harmful  and  dangerous  to  sex 
life  for  four  reasons: 

I.  ALCOHOL  INFLAMES  THE  PASSIONS,  thus  making  the  temptation  to 
sex-sin  unusually  strong. 

resisting  of  temptation  especially  difficult. 

thus  causing  the  person  who  is  under  the  influence  of  alcohol  more 
likely  to  catch  disease. 

FROM  DISEASE,  thus  making  the  result  of  disease  more  serious. 

The  influence  of  alcohol  upon  sex-life  could  hardly  be  worse. 


The  control  of  sex  impulses  will  then  be  easy  and  disease,  dishonor, 
disgrace  and  degradation  will  be  avoided.49 


Again  medical  science  was  on  the  side  of  the  drys.  Various  studies 
at  the  beginning  of  the  century  claimed  to  show  that  up  to  four  out  of 
five  men  and  two  out  of  three  women  caught  syphilis  when  they  were 
in  a  drunken  condition.  According  to  these  results,  too  much  liquor 
would  make  men  and  women  more  likely  to  catch  venereal  diseases, 
by  lowering  their  self-restraint  and  their  resistance  to  infection.  Actu- 
ally, alcohol  does  not  make  a  man  more  susceptible  to  disease,  although 
it  does  increase  his  sexual  desire  and  weaken  his  self-control.  It  is  also 
a  convenient  excuse  for  yielding  to  temptation.  An  article  in  the  Lancet 
of  1922  found  that  many  people  who  confessed  that  they  had  caught 
a  venereal  infection  because  of  liquor  were  merely  applying  a  con- 
venient drug  to  their  consciences. 

But  alcohol  does  delay  the  curing  of  syphilis  through  certain  types  of 
treatment.  Some  of  the  new  arsenical  remedies  against  syphilis  proved 
dangerous  in  the  case  of  alcoholics.50  Therefore,  the  prohibitionists 
could  and  did  claim  that  alcohol  increased  the  incidence  of  syphilis 


DRY  TERROR,  1911 

and  gonorrhea  and  prevented  their  cure.  If  only  prohibition  could  be 
enforced,  fewer  people  would  contract  venereal  disease. 

Dr.  Howard  A.  Kelley  put  forward  to  the  delegates  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  the  vital  connection  between  medicine  and  morals. 


He  said  that  doctors  as  a  group  were  interested  in  prohibition  more 
than  any  other  because  they  met  the  effects  of  alcohol  wherever  they 
went.  They  were  interested  in  moral  questions  because  many  dis- 
eases were  wholly  due  to  the  infringement  of  moral  laws.  To  say 
that  a  man  was  interested  in  the  causes  and  cure  of  diseases,  and  then 
to  say  that  moral  questions  did  not  concern  him,  was  to  blow  hot  and 
cold  in  the  same  breath.  Three  diseases  above  all  others  were  due  "to 
violations  of  God's  moral  code/'  They  were  syphilis,  gonorrhea,  and 
alcoholism.  The  Christian  minister  was  interested  in  these  diseases 
because  "they  corrupt  character,  and  are  associated  with  a  break- 
down of  the  whole  moral  nature,  and  absolutely  preclude  a  Christian 
life/'  The  statesman  was  interested  because  "they  disrupt  the  family 
unit,  or  poison  the  fountains  of  paternity,  without  which  no  nation 
can  long  exist."  And  the  doctor  as  a  citizen  took  both  of  these  views, 
although  he  was  also  interested  in  "the  degenerative  changes  wrought 
in  the  brain  and  the  other  organs  of  the  body."  The  alcoholic  strained 
his  heart  and  was  prone  to  arteriosclerosis,  chronic  gastritis,  fibrous 
liver,  and  tuberculosis;  pneumonia  was  particularly  fatal  to  beer 
drinkers.  The  alcohol  habit  led  easily  to  other  drug  habits.  Alcohol 
caused  poverty,  diminished  patriotism,  and  killed  people  on  the  roads. 
And  time  and  time  again,  the  doctor  heard  the  cry  of  the  wretched 
victims  of  syphilis,  "Why,  doctor,  I  would  never  have  entered  such 
a  house  if  I  had  not  been  drinking/'51 


THE  METHODS  of  terror  of  the  drys  worked  particularly  well  on  women 
and  children.  Men  might  be  expected  to  be  scofflaws,  but  women  were 
presumed  to  be  the  moral  guardians  of  the  nation.  Female  education 
in  the  nineteenth  century,  both  in  school  and  through  popular  maga- 
zines and  almanacs,  emphasized  the  importance  of  purity,  health, 
hygiene,  and  the  rigid  control  of  sexual  desire.  Walter  Lippmann 
pointed  out  in  1929  that  until  quite  recently  the  conventions  of 
respectable  society  had  demanded  that  a  woman  must  not  appear 
amorous  unless  her  suitor  promised  marriage  and  must  submit  to 
his  embraces  only  because  the  Lord  had  somehow  failed  to  contrive 
a  less  vile  method  of  perpetuating  the  species.  Even  in  marriage, 
procreation  was  woman's  only  sanction  for  sexual  intercourse.52 

According  to  the  conventions  of  the  Victorian  middle  classes,  adul- 
tery was  possible  inside  marriage.  The  sexual  instinct  should  not  be 
gratified  too  often.  Desire  was  a  male  preserve.  A  wife  should  yield  to 
her  husband  not  more  than  once  or  twice  a  month  in  case  over- 
indulgence might  weaken  his  seed.  During  pregnancy  and  nursing  and 

54   /   THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

menstruation,  a  husband  should  keep  away  from  his  wife.  The  gener- 
ative powers  of  the  male  were  thought  to  be  "much  greater  and  better 
if  the  organs  never  had  more  than  a  monthly  use."53  The  Mormon  men 
had  become  degenerate  and  heretical  because  of  too  much  inter- 
course. Women  must  use  reason  and  gentleness  to  control  the  lusts  of 
the  male.  Anything  that  made  a  man  forget  his  consideration  for  his 
wife  was  evil.  And  alcohol  was  the  chief  enemy  of  self-restraint  and 
conscience.  If  sex  was  to  be  kept  within  the  woman's  control,  liquor 
must  be  banned. 

This  middle-class  concept  of  the  differing  sexual  roles  of  men  and 
women  led  to  the  rise  of  the  "double  standard/'  which  held  that 
women  represented  the  good  and  men  the  base.  Although  some  women 
were  held  to  be  lewd,  they  were  only  the  small  minority  of  the  sex. 
"Let  us  save  that  greater  per  cent/'  urged  a  Southern  Congressman, 
"the  unwilling  deflowered/'54  Alcohol  was  the  means  by  which  women 
were  persuaded  to  give  way  to  their  own  hidden  lusts.  It  was  the  very 
instrument  of  sin.  Although  these  beliefs  were  middle-class  in  origin 
and  practice,  they  were  the  dominant  beliefs  and  affected  the  be- 
havior of  working-class  women  through  the  popular  literature  of  the 
time.  There  was,  indeed,  another  "double  standard"  between  the  be- 
havior of  the  middle  classes  and  that  of  the  rural  and  urban  prole- 
tariat. For  the  hired  hands  on  the  farms,  a  girl  "was  the  most  desired 
thing  in  the  world,  a  prize  to  be  worked  for,  sought  for  and  enjoyed 
without  remorse.  She  had  no  soul.  The  maid  who  yielded  to  temptation 
deserved  no  pity,  no  consideration,  no  aid.  Her  sufferings  were  amus- 
ing, her  diseases  a  joke,  her  future  of  no  account."55  But  the  fact  that 
the  reform  movements  were  usually  middle-class  movements,  and  that 
the  sexual  taboos  of  the  middle  classes  were  often  adopted  by  women 
lower  down  the  social  scale,  made  the  bourgeois  concept  of  sexual 
repression  and  reserve  a  potent  drive  behind  the  dry  cause. 

Carry  A.  Nation,  who  broke  up  rumshops  in  Kansas  with  a  hatchet 
at  the  turn  of  the  century,  wrote  a  revealing  autobiography.  Uncon- 
sciously and  clearly,  she  showed  how  sin  and  frustrated  desire  turned 
her  into  a  dragon  of  temperance.  Born  in  1846  in  Kentucky,  she  was 
brought  up  in  the  idealized  position  of  a  Southern  maiden.  Her  father 
was  a  zealous  churchgoer  and  gave  her  a  fear  of  going  to  the  "Bad 
Place."  Her  family  later  moved  to  Missouri.  She  was  converted  to  the 
Christian,  or  Disciples',  Church,  after  total  immersion  in  an  icy  stream. 
She  then  suffered  from  "consumption  of  the  bowels"  for  five  years. 
During  the  Civil  War,  she  nursed  the  wounded.  After  the  war,  she 
became  a  teacher  and  hoped  for  a  husband. 

Her  own  comments  on  her  amatory  nature  show  up  her  times.  "I 
was  a  great  lover,"  she  wrote,  yet  "my  native  modesty  prevented  me 

THE    EXPLOITED     TERROR   /   55 

from  ever  dancing  a  round  dance  with  a  gentleman.  I  cannot  think 
this  hugging  school  compatible  with  a  true  woman/'  In  1865,  a  young 
physician  who  was  boarding  with  her  family  kissed  her  for  the  first 
time  in  her  life.  "I  had  never  had  a  gentleman  to  take  such  a  privilege 
and  felt  shocked,  threw  up  my  hands  to  my  face,  saying  several  times; 
*I  am  ruined/  "  Two  years  later,  Carry  married  the  young  doctor.  He 
immediately  took  to  the  bottle  and  tobacco,  and  neglected  his  wife's 
loving  care.  She  became  jealous,  accusing  the  Masons  of  making  her 
husband  into  a  drunkard.  A  daughter  Charlien  was  born.  Of  this 
event,  Carry  wrote,  "Oh,  the  curse  that  comes  through  heredity,  and 
this  liquor  evil,  a  disease  that  entails  more  depravity  on  children  un- 
born, than  all  else,  unless  it  be  tobacco/'  Her  mother  made  her  leave 
her  husband  to  protect  the  child,  although  he  begged  her  to  stay. 
"I  did  not  know  then  that  drinking  men  were  drugged  men,  diseased 
men/'  Six  months  later,  her  husband  was  dead,  as  he  had  forecast 
when  she  left  him. 

Soon  Carry  married  again;  her  new  husband  was  the  Reverend 
David  Nation,  a  Union  Army  veteran,  a  lawyer,  a  newspaper  editor, 
and  minister.  The  marriage  was  not  a  happy  one.  Carry  thought  her 
husband  deceitful.  Her  combative  nature  was  developed  by  living 
with  him,  for  she  had  to  fight  for  everything  she  kept.  After  a  while, 
they  separated.  Carry  ran  a  boarding  house  and  looked  after  her 
daughter  Charlien.  The  child  developed  typhoid  fever;  her  right  cheek 
rotted  away;  she  was  unable  to  open  her  teeth  for  eight  years.  Carry 
knew  that  her  sin  in  marrying  her  first  husband  and  in  conceiving  a 
child  had  brought  its  retribution. 

This  my  only  child  was  peculiar.  She  was  the  result  of  a  drunken 
father  and  a  distracted  mother.  The  curse  of  heredity  is  one  of  the 
most  heart-breaking  results  of  the  saloon.  Poor  little  children  are 
brought  into  the  world  with  the  curse  of  drink  and  disease  entailed 
upon  them.  ...  If  girls  were  taught  that  a  drunkard's  curse  will  in 
the  nature  of  things  include  his  children  and  also  that  if  either  parents 
allowed  bad  thoughts  or  actions  to  come  into  their  lives,  that  their 
offspring  will  be  a  reproduction  of  their  own  sins,  they  would  avoid 
these  men,  and  men  will  give  up  their  vice  before  they  will  give  up 

Luckily,  Carry's  daughter  recovered  and  eventually  married.  Carry 
moved  to  Kansas,  which  was  then  under  state-wide  prohibition. 
Pushed  by  her  sense  of  guilt  and  religion,  she  naturally  joined  the 
local  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union  and  became  a  Jail  Evan- 
gelist. She  stood  outside  the  shops  of  the  illegal  "druggists"  who  sold 
liquor,  singing  with  other  women: 

56   /  THE    ROOTS    OF     PROHIBITION 

Who  hath  sorrow?  Who  hath  woe? 
They  who  dare  not  answer  no; 
They  whose  feet  to  sin  incline, 
While  they  tarry  at  the  wine. 

At  last  she  found  her  vocation  in  life,  after  many  years  of  unhappiness 
and  drudgery.  Her  explanations  of  this  new  happiness  are  particularly 

The  man  I  loved  and  married  brought  to  me  bitter  grief.  The  child 
I  loved  so  well  became  afflicted  and  never  seemed  to  want  my  love. 
The  man  I  married,  hoping  to  serve  God,  I  found  to  be  opposed  to 
all  I  did,  as  a  Christian.  I  used  to  wonder  why  this  was.  I  saw  others 
with  their  loving  children  and  husbands  and  I  would  wish  their  condi- 
tion was  mine.  I  now  see  why  God  saw  in  me  a  great  lover,  and  in 
order  to  have  me  use  that  love  for  Him,  and  others,  He  did  not  let  me 
have  those  that  would  have  narrowed  my  life  down  to  my  own  selfish 
wishes.  Oh!  the  grief  He  has  sent  mel  Oh!  the  fiery  trials!  Oh!  the 
shattered  hopes!  How  I  love  Him  for  this!  "Whom  the  Lord  loveth 
He  chastenetfi  and  scourgeth  every  son  whom  He  receiveth." 

From  this  time  on,  Carry  became  a  little  mad.  She  saw  demons  who 
threatened  to  tear  her  up.  She  seemed  to  suffer  from  a  sort  of  delirium 
tremens  of  virtue.  Her  fellow  temperance  workers  became  so  fright- 
ened by  her  aggressiveness  that  they  tried  to  disown  her.  She  made 
plans  to  wreck  saloons  with  rocks  and  a  hatchet.  Again  the  drive  be- 
hind her  crusade  against  alcohol  seems  to  have  been  sexual.  On  De- 
cember 27, 1900,  she  strode  into  the  Carey  Hotel  in  Wichita. 

The  first  thing  that  struck  me  was  the  life-size  picture  of  a  naked 
woman,  opposite  the  mirror.  This  was  an  oil  painting  with  a  glass  over 
it,  and  was  a  very  fine  painting  hired  from  the  artist  who  painted  it, 
to  be  put  in  that  place  for  a  vile  purpose.  I  called  to  the  bartender; 
told  him  he  was  insulting  his  own  mother  by  having  her  form  stripped 
naked  and  hung  up  in  a  place  where  it  was  not  even  decent  for  a 
woman  to  be  in  when  she  had  her  clothes  on.  ...  It  is  very  significant 
that  the  pictures  of  naked  women  are  in  saloons.  Women  are  stripped 
of  everything  by  them.  Her  husband  is  torn  from  her,  she  is  robbed  of 
her  sons,  her  home,  her  food  and  her  virtue,  and  then  they  strip  her 
clothes  off  and  hang  her  up  bare  in  these  dens  of  robbery  and  murder. 
Truly  does  a  saloon  make  a  woman  bare  of  all  things!  The  motive  for 
doing  this  is  to  suggest  vice,  animating  the  animal  in  man  and  de- 
grading the  respect  he  should  have  for  the  sex  to  whom  he  owes  his 
being,  yes,  his  Savior  also! 

During  her  raid,  Carry  was  attacked  by  saloonkeepers'  wives,  mis- 
tresses, and  prostitutes.  She  spent  some  time  in  jail.  She  then  capital- 
ized on  her  national  renown,  and  went  on  Chautauqua  tours  and  on 


the  vaudeville  circuits,  selling  little  souvenir  hatchets  wherever  she 
went  Her  second  husband  divorced  her  after  twenty-four  years  of 
marriage  on  the  grounds  of  cruelty  and  desertion.  Carry  took  this  ac- 
tion as  another  of  God's  decisions  to  confirm  her  in  her  cause.  When  he 
died  in  1907,  she  had  a  headstone  and  f  ootstone  put  on  his  grave  and  de- 
clared that  she  was  glad  God  was  the  judge  between  them.  "God  never 
used  or  blessed  any  man  or  woman  that  was  not  a  prohibitionist/'  She 
warned  Yale  and  Harvard  that  only  teetotalers  ever  reached  heaven. 
Whenever  she  met  a  young  man  alone  with  a  young  woman,  she  told 
them  of  the  terrible  consequences  of  sin  and  sent  them  fleeing  in  terror. 
She  died  of  paresis  in  June,  1911,  after  doing  much  to  publicize  both 
the  evils  of  the  saloon  and  the  excesses  of  the  drys.56 

Carry  Nation  is  worth  examining  at  length  because  she  embodied  in 
an  extreme  form  nearly  all  the  sexual  fears  and  contradictions  which 
dry  propaganda  exploited.  She  was  brought  up  among  the  "downright 
gyneolatry"  of  the  South  in  a  nation  where  women  were  widely  flat- 
tered in  words,  only  to  be  exploited  in  work.57  She  was  taught  an  acute 
sense  of  sin  and  a  belief  in  sexual  restraint,  although  her  nature  was 
passionate  and  ready  to  love;  her  frustration  was  easily  turned  to  moral 
crusading.  She  was  indoctrinated  with  the  myth  that  the  Devil  and 
disease  lurked  in  strong  drink;  thus  any  illness  which  afflicted  her  child 
was  attributed  to  the  known  evils  of  liquor  rather  than  to  the  attacks 
of  an  unknown  virus.  Once  her  child  had  left  her  and  her  second  hus- 
band was  estranged,  she  could  find  no  outlet  for  her  urge  to  do  politi- 
cal work  except  in  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union.  Above 
all,  her  suppressed  sexual  desire  was  perverted  into  an  itching  curiosity 
about  vice,  an  aggressive  prurience  which  found  its  outlet  in  violence, 
exhibitionism,  and  self-imposed  martyrdom.  Significantly,  the  first  two 
rocks  she  threw  at  the  Carey  Hotel  in  Wichita  were  at  the  painting  of 
the  naked  woman;  the  third  stone  demolished  the  mirror  behind  the 
bar.  Only  then  did  Carry  destroy  the  contents  of  the  sideboard  with  an 
iron  rod. 

Respectable  women  of  this  time  not  only  feared  that  their  husbands 
would  pick  up  venereal  diseases  from  prostitutes  in  the  saloons  or  taint 
their  children  with  the  poison  of  alcohol.  They  were  also  afraid  that 
they  could  not  control  the  lusts  of  drinking  men.  A  dry  social  worker 
wrote  that,  even  if  prostitution  were  to  be  eliminated,  an  evil  hardly 
less  "was  the  sex  abuses  committed  within  the  bonds  of  wedlock  by 
men  returning  home  after  an  evening  of  alcoholism  accented  by  sex 
suggestion.  This,  to  the  discerning,  has  been  one  of  the  final  arguments 
against  the  saloon  as  an  intolerable  canker  on  the  body  politic.*'58 
Purity  before  marriage  and  decency  afterwards  were  not  possible 




when  liquor  might  turn  the  subservient  Negro  into  the  drink-crazed 
raper  or  the  docile  husband  into  the  insistent  Casanova. 

Since  not  all  women  were  demonstrably  either  pure  or  virtuous,  alco- 
hol was  made  the  scapegoat  for  their  fall.  In  dry  literature  the  conse- 
quence of  a  boy's  first  beer  was  always  death  by  delirium  tremens, 
while  a  girl  who  drank  liquor  inevitably  met  with  seduction,  prostitution, 
or  worse.  The  inevitable  horror-monger,  Richmond  Pearson  Hobson, 
accused  alcohol  of  more  than  destroying  the  race;  it  was  unquestionably 
"the  primary  cause  of  the  condition  of  feeble-minded,  unbalanced 
female  sex-perverts,  and  of  those  women  and  girls  who,  though  of 
sound  mind,  were  taken  advantage  of  through  the  temporary  suspen- 
sion of  their  higher  faculties  as  the  result  of  drink."39  The  Anti- 
Saloon  League  widely  publicized  Jane  Addams's  conclusion  that  alco- 
hol was  the  indispensable  tool  of  the  white-slave  traders.60  In  areas  of 
the  country  where  Jews  were  not  accused  of  buying  up  the  virtue  of 
Gentile  virgins  or  Roman  Catholic  priests  of  seducing  Protestant  girls 
in  nunneries,  the  denunciation  of  alcohol  and  vice  provided  a  desired 
titillation  for  church  audiences. 

But  the  drys  appealed  to  women's  rights  as  well  as  to  their  phobias. 
Their  appeal  was  called  an  appeal  to  freedom.  How  could  drinkers 
claim  that  their  personal  liberty  was  being  attacked  when  their  wives 
were  slaves?  Did  not  freedom  to  drink  for  men  mean  mere  freedom  for 
women  to  drudge,  to  scrape,  and  to  starve?  Could  any  woman  be 
called  free  who  did  not  have  a  decent  income  and  husband?  Did  not 
women  have  the  right  to  ensure  the  health  of  their  children?  Was  not 
the  real  slave  the  drink  slave?  Jack  London  was  so  persuaded  by  this 
propaganda  that  he  voted  for  female  suffrage  in  California  in  1911  so 
that  the  women  in  turn  could  vote  to  deprive  him  of  liquor.  "The  mo- 
ment women  get  the  vote  in  any  community,  the  first  thing  they  pro- 
ceed to  do,  or  try  to  do,  is  to  close  the  saloons.  In  a  thousand  genera- 
tions to  come  men  of  themselves  will  not  close  the  saloons.  As  well  as 
expect  the  morphine  victims  to  legislate  the  sale  of  morphine  out  of 
existence/'61  True  freedom  for  men  lay  in  allowing  their  womenfolk  to 
purify  the  race  by  depriving  weak  male  nature  of  all  opportunities  for 
sin  in  the  saloons. 


THE  AMERICAN  Medical  Association  is  a  formidable  organization.  As 
far  back  as  1907,  it  was  called  the  "most  powerful  trained  lobby  in  the 
country."62  It  had  an  agent  in  each  of  the  2830  counties  of  the  United 
States.  Its  list  of  approachable  political  leaders  numbered  sixteen  thou- 
sand. It  was  backed  by  the  life  insurance  companies  and  Standard  Oil. 


Only  the  influence  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  the  veterans  com- 
pared with  its  power  among  lobbies  which  were  not  obviously  dedi- 
cated to  big-business  interests. 

Doctors  in  America  have  continually  fought  the  tradition  of  folk 
medicine.  Their  fight  has  sometimes  been  difficult,  since  folk  medicine 
is  much  cheaper  than  a  physician.  At  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, patent  medicines  heavily  laced  with  alcohol  were  enjoying  a  great 
vogue  in  dry  areas,  as  well  as  such  home  remedies  as  cider  vinegar 
and  honey.  Medical  practitioners  often  found  that  patients  relied  on 
quack  nostrums  bought  at  county  fairs,  or  on  remedies  advertised  in 
farmers'  almanacs,  such  as  Heale/s  Bitters  and  Allen's  Cherry  Pectoral 
"to  purify  the  blood."  The  rise  of  Christian  Science,  faith  healers,  oste- 
opaths, chiropractors,  and  dietitians  made  further  inroads  into  the  in- 
comes of  physicians  licensed  by  the  Medical  Association.  Official  phar- 
macists also  found  themselves  menaced  by  unqualified  druggists,  who 
dealt  in  powders  and  herbs  and  dilute  alcohol.  Before  the  passage  of 
the  Pure  Food  and  Drug  Act  of  1906,  an  annual  business  worth  seventy- 
five  million  dollars  a  year  was  done  by  makers  of  patent  medicines, 
which  "eradicated"  asthma  with  sugar  and  water,  "soothed"  babies 
with  deadly  opiates,  "relieved"  headaches  with  dangerous  coal-tar 
drugs,  "dispelled"  catarrh  with  cocaine,  and  "cured"  tuberculosis,  can- 
cer, and  Bright's  disease  with  disguised  alcohol.63  *  Even  after  the  Act, 
the  patent-medicine  trade  continued  to  flourish. 

A  new  menace  to  the  profits  of  the  doctors  arose  at  the  beginning  of 
the  century.  Chemotherapy  was  developed  to  compete  with  serum 
therapy.  The  doctors  had  a  monopoly  of  treatment  by  serums;  but 
when  research  seemed  to  make  possible  in  the  near  future  direct  treat- 
ment by  tonics  and  pills,  physicians  became  frightened  for  their  liveli- 
hood. The  discovery  by  Ehrlich  in  1909  of  Salvarsan,  the  first  nontoxic 
germicide,  appeared  to  be  an  attack  on  doctors'  fees;  an  improved 
germicide  was  on  the  market  by  1916.  Those  who  suffered  from  vene- 
real and  other  diseases  could  now  be  cured  quicker  and  much  more 
simply.  Other  chemical  preparations  would  be  discovered  to  take  the 
place  of  prolonged  and  expensive  courses  of  medical  treatment.  Drug 
manufacturers  would  thrive,  while  doctors  and  pharmacists  grew  poor. 

This  fear  for  the  future  of  their  professions  is  an  explanation  for  the 
strange  behavior  of  the  pharmacists  and  the  American  Medical  Asso- 

*  R.  and  H.  Lynd,  in  their  seminal  Middletoion,  found  that  advertisements  for 
patent  medecines  filled  up  a  great  deal  of  the  advertising  space  in  newspapers 
as  late  as  1925.  Most  of  these  advertisements  offered  some  form  of  quick  and 
suspicious  treatment  for  disease.  Among  these  were  Musterole  ("Usually  gives 
prompt  relief  from  [nineteen  ailments]  —  it  may  prevent  pneumonia");  Lydia  E. 
Pinkham's  Vegetable  Compound  ("An  operation  avoided");  and  Baume  Bengue 
("When  in  pain"). 


elation.  In  1916,  The  Pharmacopoeia  of  the  United  States  dropped 
whisky  and  brandy  from  its  list  of  standard  drugs.  On  June  6,  1917,  the 
President  of  the  American  Medical  Association  delivered  a  speech  in 
favor  of  prohibition.  The  House  of  Delegates  then  passed  one  resolu- 
tion, which  asked  the  United  States  Senate  to  control  the  spread  of 
syphilis  by  ending  the  German  patents  on  the  manufacture  of  Salvarsan, 
and  another  resolution  condemning  the  use  of  alcohol.  This  second 
resolution  stated: 

WHEREAS,  We  believe  that  the  use  of  alcohol  as  a  beverage  is  detri- 
mental to  the  human  economy,  and 

WHEREAS,  Its  use  in  therapeutics,  as  a  tonic  or  a  stimulant  or  as  a 
food  has  no  scientific  basis,  therefore  be  it 

Resolved,  That  the  American  Medical  Association  opposes  the  use 
of  alcohol  as  a  beverage;  and  be  it  further 

Resolved,  That  the  use  of  alcohol  as  a  therapeutic  agent  should  be 

This  resolution  was  extremely  useful  to  the  drys  in  their  campaign 
for  national  prohibition.  Senator  Sterling,  of  South  Dakota,  referred  to 
it  in  the  debate  on  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  as  "one  of  the  most 
valuable  pieces  of  evidence  we  can  find  in  support  of  the  submission  of 
this  amendment  to  the  several  States  of  the  Union."65  Wayne  B.  Wheeler 
quoted  it  as  definitive  evidence,  while  defending  the  dry  definition  of 
"intoxicating"  in  the  courts.  The  resolution  was  also  very  profitable  to 
the  doctors.  After  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the 
Volstead  Act,  they  were  the  only  people  who  could  legally  issue  to 
their  patients  whisky,  brandy,  and  other  strong  drinks.  Moreover,  no 
patent  medicine  containing  alcohol  could  be  officially  sold  without  a 
doctor's  prescription.  By  constitutional  amendment,  the  doctors  con- 
trolled all  supplies  of  beverage  alcohol  in  the  United  States,  except  for 
the  hard  cider  of  the  farmers  and  the  sacramental  wine  of  the  priests. 

If  the  American  Medical  Association  had  really  believed  that  alcohol 
was  detrimental  to  the  human  economy,  its  condemnation  would  have 
been  just.  But  alcohol  was  still  being  widely  prescribed  as  a  medicine 
in  1917.  It  was  recommended  by  many  doctors  in  cases  of  fainting, 
shock,  heart  failure,  exposure,  and  exhaustion.  It  was  believed  to  be 
an  antidote  to  snake  bite,  pneumonia,  influenza,  diphtheria,  and  ane- 
mia. It  was  used  as  a  method  of  feeding  carbohydrates  to  sufferers 
from  diabetes.  It  was  given  to  cheer  and  build  up  the  aged.  Insufficient 
research  had  been  done  to  state  definitely  that  alcoholic  drinks  pos- 
sessed no  food  value.  Nothing  was  said  in  the  resolution  about  the  fact 
that  small  quantities  of  alcohol  taken  with  meals  might  aid  the  diges- 
tion and  relax  the  mind.  The  wording  of  the  resolution  did  not  mention 


the  use  of  alcohol  as  a  narcotic  and  depressant,  nor  as  a  necessary  sol- 
vent in  many  chemical  preparations.  The  American  Medical  Association 
had  laid  itself  open  to  the  charge  that  it  was  trying  to  control  the  com- 
petition of  patent  medicines  and  chemotherapy  through  its  alcohol  mo- 

The  prohibitionists  exploited  the  medical  and  sexual  terrors  of  the 
people  of  America  in  order  to  further  their  cause.  In  the  course  of  this 
indoctrination,  they  were  helped  by  the  findings  of  research  and  the 
dicta  of  doctors.  They  used  every  means  of  propaganda  to  abolish  the 
saloons.  For  the  conflict  between  the  Protestant  evangelical  churches  of 
the  United  States  and  the  saloons  was  unceasing  and  bitter.  The  saloons 
were  held  to  be  the  enemies  both  of  God  and  of  the  Protestant  faith. 
They  were  embroiled  in  a  religious  quarrel  between  rival  churches,  and 
a  social  quarrel  between  clericals  and  anticlericals.  They  also  competed 
with  the  pulpits  in  their  attraction  to  all  and  sundry.  The  conflict  of 
country  and  city  and  the  aggressive  psychology  of  the  drys  demanded 
that  the  struggle  between  the  churches  and  the  saloons  be  fought  to  a 


The  Churches  against  the  Saloons 

The  saloon  is  an  infidel.  It  has  no  faith  in  God;  has  no 
religion.  It  would  close  every  church  in  the  land.  It  would 
hang  its  beer  signs  on  the  abandoned  altars.  It  would  close 
every  public  school.  It  respects  the  thief  and  it  esteems  the 
blasphemer;  it  fills  the  prisons  and  the  penitentiaries. 

It  cocks  the  highwayman's  pistol.  It  puts  the  rope  in  the 
hands  of  the  mob.  It  is  the  anarchist  of  the  world,  and  its 
red  flag  is  dyed  with  the  blood  of  women  and  children; 
it  sent  the  bullet  through  the  body  of  Lincoln;  it  nerved 
the  arm  that  sent  the  bullets  through  Garfield  and  William 
McKinley.  Yes,  it  is  a  murderer. 

I  tell  you  that  the  curse  of  God  Almighty  is  on  the  saloon. 


Undoubtedly  the  church  and  the  saloon  originated  in  pre- 
historic times  —  probably  simultaneously.  And  they  have 
been  rivals  ever  since.  Man  first  began  to  pray  to  his  idols. 
The  priest  gathered  around  him  under  his  sacred  tree  or  in 
his  sanctified  cave  those  whom  he  could  induce  to  believe 
in  the  "gods"  while  the  preparer  of  the  real  joys  of  life 
required  no  argument  to  induce  people  to  trade  with  him. 
So  the  saloon  man  had  the  advantage  from  the  start. 


Somehow  or  another,  Hinnissy,  it  don't  seem  just  right 
that  there  shud  be  a  union  iv  church  an'  saloon.  These  two 
gr-reat  institutions  ar-re  best  kept  apart.  They  kind  iv 
offset  each  other,  like  th'  Supreem  Coort  an'  Congress. 
Dhrink  is  a  nicissry  evil,  nicissry  to  th"  clargy.  If  they  iver 
admit  it's  nicissry  to  th'  consumers  they  might  as  well  close 
up  th'  churches. 


,My  objection  to  the  saloon-keeper  is  the  same  that  I  have 
to  the  louse  —  he  makes  his  living  off  the  head  of  a  family. 



64   /   THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 


GREAT  CITIES  were  the  enemies  of  the  evangelical  Protestant 
churches  of  America.  They  fostered  liberals  and  agnostics,  saloons 
and  Roman  Catholics.  Nothing  seemed  more  dangerous  to  the  funda- 
mental beliefs  of  primitive  American  Protestantism  than  the  urban  mil- 

The  Roman  Catholic  Church  in  America,  except  for  the  areas  which 
were  once  under  Spanish  rule  and  the  border  districts  settled  by  French 
Canadians,  was  based  on  the  large  cities.  Immigration  to  America  from 
the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century  until  the  Great  War  favored  the 
Roman  Catholic  faith.  The  immigrants  tended  to  remain  as  cheap  la- 
bor in  the  large  cities,  displacing  the  old  population  which  moved  out 
West.  From  being  a  small  minority  group,  communicants  of  the  Church 
of  Rome  grew  to  a  total  of  more  than  one-third  of  all  church  members 
between  1890  and  1916. 

In  the  latter  year,  the  Roman  Catholic  Church  had  over  half  the 
church  members  of  fifteen  states,  and  was  first  in  number  in  thirty- 
three  states.  Its  main  strength  lay  in  the  East,  with  pockets  on  the  Pa- 
cific and  in  Louisiana  and  Texas.  Over  one-half  of  the  Catholics  were 
concentrated  in  five  great  states  with  large  votes  in  the  electoral  col- 
lege: New  York,  Pennsylvania,  Massachusetts,  Illinois,  and  Ohio.  Over 
5,000,000  Catholics  lived  in  cities  with  a  population  of  300,000  or  more; 
they  constituted  two  out  of  three  church  members  in  those  cities. 
Nearly  4,000,000  Catholics  lived  in  cities  with  a  population  of  between 
25,000  and  300,000;  they  made  up  one  out  of  two  church  members  in 
those  smaller  cities.  Although  over  6,500,000  Catholics  lived  outside 
these  urban  districts,  they  lived  among  more  than  26,000,000  Protes- 
tants. In  rural  areas,  only  one  out  of  five  church  members  were  Catho- 
lics. Yet,  by  1916,  over  four-fifths  of  the  land  of  America  was  nominally 
dry,  although  less  than  half  of  the  population  lived  in  these  counties. 
The  saloons  were  concentrated  in  the  large  cities.  The  Protestant  charge 
that  the  cities  were  the  home  of  rum  and  Rome  was  true.* 

The  main  supporters  of  prohibition  were  the  Methodist,  the  Baptist, 
the  Presbyterian,  and  the  Congregational  churches,  aided  by  the  smaller 
Disciples  of  Christ,  Christian  Science,  and  Mormon  religious  groups.1 
Four  out  of  five  of  the  members  of  these  churches  lived  in  small  towns 
or  in  the  countryside,  for  their  converts  had  been  made  chiefly  by  mis- 

*This  has  remained  true.  The  election  of  President  Kennedy  in  1960  was 
largely  due  to  the  heavy  Roman  Catholic  vote  for  him  in  the  Eastern  cities.  The 
ratio  of  Catholics  to  Protestants  in  America  has  remained  roughly  one  to  two  ever 
since  1890,  although  the  proportion  of  nominal  church  members  has  grown  from 
40  to  60  per  cent  of  the  whole  population. 


sionary  circuit  riders.  The  Methodist  churches  were  the  most  militant 
of  the  seven.  In  1914,  the  secretary  of  the  Liquor  Dealers'  Association 
said  that  it  was  necessary  only  to  read  the  list  of  those  preachers  who 
were  active  in  the  propaganda  for  prohibition  to  realize  that  the  Meth- 
odist Church  was  obsessed  with  the  ambition  to  gain  control  of  the 
government.2  Although  the  statement  was  exaggerated,  there  was  truth 
in  it.  The  Methodist  churches  were  the  largest  Protestant  body  in  the 
country,  and  they  worked  closely  with  the  Anti-Saloon  League. 

The  Anti-Saloon  League,  founded  in  1893,  claimed  to  be  the  political 
machine  of  the  Protestant  churches  in  the  matter  of  prohibition.8  It 
called  itself  "the  Protestant  church  in  action"  and  relied  on  the  variotis 
churches  for  its  recruits  and  finances,  although  it  was  careful  not  to 
employ  those  clergymen  unwanted  by  their  own  churches,  "ministerial 
misfits  and  clerical  flotsam  and  jetsam."4  Spokesmen  of  the  League 
would  approach  individual  pastors  and  ask  their  permission  to  speak 
at  a  Sunday  service  to  the  congregation.  After  the  sermon,  a  collection 
of  cash  and  signed  pledges  for  monthly  subscriptions  to  the  League 
would  be  collected.  The  League  made  it  a  policy  never  to  send  out  its 
speakers  unless  a  collection  for  the  League  was  taken  afterwards. 
Moreover,  each  League  spokesman  had  to  be  an  expert  fund-raiser.  As 
one  League  leader  put  the  matter,  "If  he  does  not  know  how,  or  cannot 
learn  how  to  present  the  work  in  such  a  way  as  to  secure  a  hearty  re- 
sponse financially,  he  may  as  well  hand  in  his  resignation/'5 

The  League's  use  of  the  churches  as  a  milch  cow  for  campaign  funds 
led  to  much  unpleasantness.  In  the  early  days  of  the  League,  many  pas- 
tors would  refuse  the  League  the  opportunity  of  speaking  to  their  con- 
gregations. There  was  little  enough  money  in  the  pockets  of  the  faithful 
for  other  causes.  Moreover,  national  church  councils  would  not  order 
their  ministers  to  give  the  League  free  run  of  their  facilities.  They 
would  endorse  the  League,  but  fail  to  help  it  by  particular  recommen- 
dations. Finally,  many  churches,  jealous  of  the  large  harvests  reaped 
from  congregations  by  the  League  speakers,  put  their  income  on  a 
budget  basis,  allocating  a  percentage  of  the  yearly  take  to  the  League. 
This  system  crippled  the  finances  of  the  League,  although  it  provided 
more  money  for  other  good  causes. 

The  League  was  officially  only  a  political  and  educational  organiza- 
tion, and  thus  did  not  break  overtly  the  American  tradition  of  separa- 
tion between  church  and  state.  Between  1911  and  1925,  the  average 
number  of  churches  affiliated  to  the  League  was  some  30,000,  rising  to 
a  maximum  of  60,000  at  the  zenith  of  the  League's  influence.  Through 
these  churches,  the  League  collected  up  to  two  million  dollars  a  year  in 
revenue  and  called  out  dry  votes  against  wet  candidates  in  political 
elections.  In  1908,  Superintendent  Nicholson,  of  Pennsylvania,  stated 


THE  THIRD  PROHIBITION  WAVE,  1907  to  1919 

States  without  a  state-wlde  prohibition  law  until  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment 


(The  figures  refer  to  the  percentage  of  urban  population) 
H      States  with  less  than  60  per  cent  urban  population 
EJN]      States  with  less  than  30  per  cent  urban  population 


States  with  less  than  half  native  white 
with  native-born  parents 

(The  Protestant  Episcopal  and  Lutheran  churches 
are  excluded  from  this  map,  sine*  they  ware 
Internally  split  between  prohibition  and  temperance) 


that  through  the  co-operation  of  4500  churches  he  had  the  names  and 
addresses  of  some  75,000  voters,  with  the  party  of  their  choice.  His 
spokesman  from  Philadelphia  boasted  that  he  could  dictate  twenty  let- 
ters to  twenty  men  in  twenty  parts  of  the  city  and  thereby  set  50,000 
men  in  action.  With  such  a  political  weapon,  the  Protestant  crusade 
against  strong  drink  had  a  good  chance  of  conquering  even  the  corrupt 
city  machines,  backed  by  the  liquor  trade.  The  first  League  lobbyist  in 
Washington  spoke  the  truth  when  he  said,  "The  graves  of  many  state 
legislators  and  members  of  Congress  can  be  seen  along  our  line  of 
march,  and  there  are  other  graves  waiting/'  He  was  unconsciously 
paraphrasing  the  words  of  a  church  politician  who  had  opposed  Abra- 
ham Lincoln  sixty  years  before:  Tf  there  is  any  thing  dear  to  the  hearts 
of  the  Know  Nothings,  it  is  to  write  the  epitaphs  of  certain  noted  politi- 
cal leaders."6 

But  not  all  of  the  churches  co-operated  with  the  Anti-Saloon  League. 
The  Protestant  Episcopal  and  the  Lutheran  churches  never  gave  the 
League  more  than  tepid  support,  while  the  Jewish  and  Catholic  churches 
on  the  whole  opposed  prohibition  and  supported  temperance.  Together, 
these  four  churches  numbered  more  in  their  congregations  than  the 
seven  main  evangelical  Protestant  churches.*  Moreover,  in  no  state  ex- 
cept Utah  were  the  evangelical  Protestants  a  majority  of  the  whole  popu- 
lation; only  two  out  of  five  Americans  belonged  to  any  church.  Of  the  six 
states  which  counted  more  than  half  of  their  people  as  church  mem- 
bers in  1916,  five  were  predominantly  Catholic  and  one  Mormon,  five 
wet  and  one  dry.  Except  for  Utah,  none  of  the  twenty-six  states  which 
were  nominally  dry  before  the  patriotic  and  repressive  hysteria  of  the 
Great  War  could  call  their  church  members  a  majority  of  their  whole 
population.  The  twelve  large  states  of  New  York,  New  Jersey,  Massa- 
chusetts, Pennsylvania,  Ohio,  Illinois,  Wisconsin,  Minnesota,  Missouri, 
Louisiana,  Texas,  and  California  had  no  state  prohibition  law,  and  con- 
tained more  than  half  the  church  members  of  America.  They  also  pos- 
sessed a  larger  population,  more  electoral  votes,  wealth,  factories,  and 
schools  than  all  the  other  thirty-six  states. 

Thus,  national  prohibition  appeared  to  be  persecution  of  the  large 
states  by  the  small  ones,  of  the  city  churches  by  the  country  churches. 
The  claim  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  that  it  represented  the  churches 
and  the  majority  of  Americans  was  false.  The  seven  major  religious 
bodies  which  supported  prohibition  could  not  muster  more  than  one 
American  out  of  five  behind  their  banners.  Also,  for  every  church  mem- 

*  Significantly,  three  of  these  four  churches  had  some  two-thirds  of  their 
members  in  the  cities.  Only  the  Lutheran  churches  were  based  primarily  on  the 
countryside.  The  reason  that  the  two  most  numerous  of  the  Lutheran  synods  did 
not  support  prohibition  was  because  of  the  traditional  drinking  habits  of  their 
German  immigrant  believers. 


ber  who  was  a  dry,  there  was  another  church  member  who  was  a  wet. 
Yet  the  fact  is  that  national  prohibition  did  become  the  law  of  the 
land.  This  was  partly  due  to  the  brilliant  political  methods  of  the  drys. 
But  it  was  above  all  due  to  their  conquerors'  air.  They  had  said  so  re- 
peatedly and  so  insistently  that  prohibition  would  come  to  the  nation 
that  few  were  surprised  when  it  did,  and  fewer  would  speak  out  openly 
against  it.  No  one  wanted  to  seem  to  oppose  the  inevitable  success  of 
"The  Prohibition  Band-Wagon ': 

O,  it  wont  be  long,  is  the  burden  of  our  song, 

Till  we  get  our  wagon  started  on  the  way, 
And  our  friends  who  vote  for  gin  will  all  scramble  to  jump  in, 

When  we  get  our  big  band-wagon,  some  sweet  day. 

Indeed,  the  drys  pushed  the  problem  of  liquor  so  much  into  the  fore- 
front of  political  affairs  that  it  overshadowed  more  important  matters. 
The  Jesuit  weekly  America  acknowledged  this  in  an  editorial: 

The  decalogue  is  no  longer  up  to  date.  "Thou  shalt  not  kill,"  in  cer- 
tain contingencies,  is  of  less  moment  than  "Thou  shalt  not  drink  wine"; 
"Thou  shalt  not  commit  adultery"  is  on  a  par  with  "Thou  shalt  not  use 
tobacco";  whereas,  "Thou  shalt  not  steal,"  appears  to  be  of  less  conse- 
quence to  a  class  of  reformers  than  "Thou  shalt  not  play  Sunday  base- 

The  fantastic  disproportion  which  the  question  of  alcohol  and  the 
Puritan  reformers  assumed  in  the  minds  of  clergy  and  laity  was  the 
measure  of  the  success  and  of  the  shame  of  the  drys.  When  a  moral 
movement  hailed  a  Great  War  because  of  the  huge  wave  of  prohibi- 
tion legislation  passed  by  the  combatants,  it  ran  the  risk  of  being  ac- 
cused of  supporting  mass  murder  to  gain  the  doubtful  benefits  of  uni- 
versal pure  water. 

The  drys,  who  relied  heavily  on  the  authority  of  the  Bible  and  the 
bad  examples  of  the  drunken  Noah  and  Belshazzar,  had  one  great 
problem.  Clarence  Darrow  put  the  matter  nastily  when  he  wrote: 

The  orthodox  Christian  cannot  consistently  be  a  prohibitionist  or  a 
total  abstainer.  If  God,  or  the  Son  of  God,  put  alcohol  into  his  system, 
then  alcohol  cannot  be  a  poison  that  has  no  place  in  that  system.  God, 
or  the  Son  of  God,  would  hardly  set  so  vicious  and  criminal  an  example 
to  the  race  he  is  supposed  to  have  come  to  save.8 

Moreover,  there  was  the  more  unpleasant  fact  that  Jesus  Christ  Himself 
turned  water  into  wine  at  Cana  and  drank  that  wine.  He  also  recom- 
mended that  His  followers  should  drink  wine  in  memory  of  Him.  Both 
biology  and  the  Bible  seemed  to  make  the  position  of  the  religious  pro- 
hibitionist untenable.  He  could  not  answer  John  Erskine's  question  to 

70   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

his  dry  friend:  Was  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  an  amendment  to  the 
Constitution  or  to  the  New  Testament?9 

There  was  a  classical  argument  between  church  scholars  on  this 
point.  To  the  drys,  the  Bible  sanctioned  the  total  prohibition  of  liquor. 
The  process  of  distillation  had  not  been  invented  until  seven  centuries 
after  Christ,  nor  was  there  any  proof  that  the  Jews  knew  how  to  make 
beer.  Therefore,  prohibition  of  spirits  and  ale  was  perfectly  in  accord- 
ance with  the  Bible.  Although  wine  was  mentioned  in  the  Bible  over 
two  hundred  times  and  approved  by  God  Himself,  it  was  only  a  slightly 
fermented  substance  mixed  with  honey.  The  wine  of  the  Hebrews  was 
not  adulterated,  nor  did  the  local  liquor  traders  have  an  organized 
power  for  evil.  The  Jewish  race  was  never  as  much  addicted  to  intem- 
perance as  the  Anglo-Saxon  because  of  the  mild  climate  of  Palestine 
and  of  the  easygoing  way  of  life  there.  Moreover,  the  Jewish  peasant 
was  too  poor  to  buy  much  liquor.  Therefore,  the  drink  problem  was 
insignificant  among  the  Hebrews  compared  with  the  Anglo-Saxon  com- 
munities. Wine  was  indeed  a  staple  article  of  food  in  the  ancient  world 
like  grain,  oil,  and  milk;  but  it  was  so  only  because  of  the  plenteous 
vineyards,  the  impossibility  of  storing  grapes,  and  the  illusion  that  wine 
was  a  tonic  or  medicine.  Although  the  Bible  could  be  quoted  by  the 
Pharisees  of  the  drink  trade  to  prove  that  God  had  blessed  wine,  there 
was  no  doubt  that  a  reborn  Christ  would  blast  the  saloon  and  back 
total  abstinence.10 

To  wet  clergymen,  the  dry  cause  and  the  fanaticism  of  fundamental- 
ist reformers  denied  the  liberal  principles  of  Christianity.  Alcohol  was 
expressly  sanctioned  by  the  Bible.  The  Hebrew  word  yayin  and  the 
Greek  word  oinos  both  referred  to  fermented  grape  juice.  Jehovah  and 
Jesus  Christ  blessed  its  use  in  moderation.  'Yayin  was  certainly  used  at 
the  Passover  feast,  and  Jesus  definitely  made  wine  of  the  finest  quality 
at  the  feast  of  Cana.  It  was  to  save  the  world  from  the  harsh  doctrines  of 
John  the  Baptist  and  his  immersion  of  the  faithful  in  cold  water  that 
Christ  instituted  a  wine  feast  in  His  memory.  The  very  bondage  from 
which  mankind  was  saved  by  Christ's  death  was  being  imposed  again 
by  the  prohibitionists.  Legalism  had  crucified  Jesus.  The  new  legalists 
would  crucify  Him  afresh  and  put  Him  to  open  shame  by  blaspheming 
the  liberty  He  won  for  men.  According  to  one  Episcopalian,  the  Christ- 
spirit  only  tended  one  way.  It  freed  men  from  the  Sabbatarianism  and 
teetotalism  which  the  prohibitionists  were  trying  to  impose  anew.  The 
typical  and  symbolic  miracle  of  modern  Pharisees  would  be  the  turning 
of  wine  into  water.11 

Freud  says  that  judgments  of  value  are  attempts  to  prop  up  illusions 
by  arguments.12  Whatever  the  truth  of  this  judgment  of  value,  the  mat- 
ter of  sacramental  wine  did  seem  to  split  the  churches  more  on  the  lines 
of  their  attitudes  toward  prohibition  than  toward  biblical  research. 


The  seven  major  evangelical  Protestant  churches  served  only  unfer- 
mented  grape  juice  at  religious  ceremonies.  Their  brothers,  the  Ro- 
man Catholic  and  the  Jewish  and  the  Episcopalian  churches,  continued 
to  use  altar  wine  with  an  alcoholic  content  throughout  prohibition.  Re- 
ligious conviction,  ill  health,  and  a  taste  for  fermented  apple  juice  were 
the  three  conditions  of  body  and  soul  allowed  legal  liquor  throughout 
the  twenties. 

During  the  whole  of  its  career,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  depended  on 
the  evangelical  churches.  When  the  League  was  attacked,  those 
churches  were  also  attacked.  Before  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment,  proposals  were  made  that  since  the  churches  had  engaged 
in  politics  through  the  medium  of  the  League,  their  property  should 
be  taxed.  In  1876,  President  Grant  had  recommended  a  constitutional 
amendment  to  this  effect,  which  had  passed  the  House  and  had  only 
failed  in  the  Senate  by  two  votes.  Should  not  his  proposal  be  revived? 
A  bill  was  actually  introduced  in  the  New  York  state  legislature  for  this 
purpose.  The  answer  to  clerical  interference  in  politics  was  to  be  politi- 
cal interference  in  the  church.  But  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  changed  the  direction  of  the  wet  counterattack  to  the 
repeal  of  existing  constitutional  errors,  not  to  the  addition  of  more. 

During  the  years  after  1913,  Congress  became  increasingly  bitter 
about  the  political  influence  of  the  church  reformers  and  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League.  Representative  Barchfeld,  of  Pennsylvania,  in  the  de- 
bate on  the  Hobson  resolution,  voiced  this  discontent  when  he  said 
that  prohibition  had  been  an  instrument  of  despotism  since  the  world 
began,  the  first  and  the  last  resource  of  those  who  would  compel  where 
they  could  not  lead.  He  then  accused  the  Anti-Saloon  League  of  adopt- 
ing the  methods  of  the  Caesars  by  proscribing  Senators,  of  being  the 
heir  of  the  old  Know-Nothings,  and  of  setting  itself  up  falsely  as  "the 
real  representative  of  the  moral,  sober,  industrious,  and  God-fearing 
people  of  the  land  to  dictate  to  the  Congress  and  employ  weapons  that 
belong  to  the  old  age  of  absolutism."13  Louis  Seibold  stated  in  a  group 
of  articles  in  the  New  York  World  of  May,  1919,  that  the  average  mem- 
ber of  Congress  was  more  afraid  of  the  League  than  he  was  of  the 
President  of  the  United  States.  On  all  temperance  matters,  this  state- 
ment was  true. 

The  entry  of  the  Protestant  evangelical  churches  into  politics  was 
a  dangerous  precedent.  Although  the  church  congregations  could  form 
the  basis  of  an  effective  political  machine,  the  traditional  separation 
between  church  and  state  in  America  opened  an  avenue  for  a  counter- 
attack by  politicians  on  the  privileges  of  religious  bodies.  And  the 
churches,  too,  by  engaging  in  political  actions,  could  offend  their  own 
members.  The  church  militant  can  lose  as  much  support  as  the  church 


From  Outfoofc  and  Independent 



THE  SALOON  was  the  church  of  the  poor.  While  the  churches  supplied  a 
meeting  place  for  the  respectable,  the  saloons  were  the  rendezvous  of 
the  workers.  If  religious  services  provided  many  of  the  consolations  of 
the  well-to-do,  the  brass  rail  provided  an  equal  footing  with  the  rest 
of  humanity  for  the  down-at-heel.  While  the  minister  advised  and 
aided  his  flock,  the  bartender  performed  the  same  service  for  his  tegu- 
lar patrons.  Both  took  in  money  and  dispensed  comfort.  Both  provided 
an  escape  from  the  world.  But  the  virtue  of  the  churchgoers  put  them 
at  odds  with  the  assumed  vice  of  the  refugees  of  the  swinging  doors. 
For  the  sin  of  the  saloon  was  that  it  sold  alcohol.  And  alcohol  was  dan- 
gerous, once  it  escaped  from  the  control  of  the  virtuous.  It  is  a  fact 
that  the  only  three  groups  who  were  allowed  by  law  to  make,  pre- 
scribe, or  sell  beverage  alcohol  after  the  passing  of  the  Volstead  Act 
were  the  three  groups  who  had  been  the  most  active  in  condemning  it: 
the  ministers,  the  farmers,  and  the  doctors  and  druggists. 

The  paternalism  and  uplift  of  the  reformers  were  psychologically 
opposed  to  the  saloon.  When  the  members  of  the  Committee  of  Fifty 
at  the  turn  of  the  century  looked  for  substitutes  for  the  saloon,  they 
recognized  the  needs  which  it  filled: 

The  saloon  is  the  most  democratic  of  institutions.  It  appeals  at  once 
to  the  common  humanity  of  a  man.  There  is  nothing  to  repel.  No  ques- 
tions are  asked.  Respectability  is  not  a  countersign.  The  doors  swing 
open  before  any  man  who  chooses  to  enter.  Once  within  he  finds  the 
atmosphere  one  in  which  he  can  allow  his  social  nature  freely  to  ex- 
pand. The  welcome  from  the  keeper  is  a  personal  one.  The  environ- 
ment is  congenial.  It  may  be  that  the  appeal  is  to  what  is  base  in 
him.  He  may  find  his  satisfaction  because  he  can  give  vent  to  those 
lower  desires  which  seek  expression.  The  place  may  be  attractive  just 
because  it  is  so  little  elevating.  Man  is  taken  as  he  is,  and  is  given  what 
he  wants,  be  that  want  good  or  bad.  The  only  standard  is  the  demand. 

The  members  of  .the  committee  recognized  that  the  saloon  was  the 
competitor  of  the  home;  but  they  maintained  that  the  answer  was  not 
to  close  the  saloons  but  to  make  the  homes  more  welcoming.  Once 
slums  were  turned  into  garden  suburbs,  then  a  man  would  drink  at  his 
own  fireside.  "When  a  man  sees  outside  of  the  saloon  what  is  more  at- 
tractive than  what  he  finds  in  it,  he  will  cease  to  be  its  patron/'14 

One  reformer  thought  the  church  could  learn  many  things  from  the 
saloon.  There  was  human  fellowship  and  equality  in  the  saloon,  little  in 
the  charity  home.  The  saloon  had  no  doorstep;  the  church  hall  had. 
The  saloon  had  glitter;  the  chapel  was  drab.  The  saloon  was  easy  to 
enter;  the  religious  hall  was  locked.  The  saloon  was  active  one  hundred 

Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


and  forty  hours  a  week,  the  church  four.  No  one  bothered  about  a 
man  s  business'  at  the  saloon.  No  one  asked  about  his  worries  or  his 
home  troubles.  Ragged  clothes  were  not  a  mark  of  shame.  Free  lunches 
were  given  for  a  five-cent  glass  of  beer;  if  the  saloons  of  New  York 
were  closed,  twenty-five  thousand  men  would  declare  that  the  food 
had  been  taken  out  of  their  mouths.  The  saloon  provided  newspapers, 
billiards,  card  tables,  bowling  alleys,  toilets,  and  washing  facilities. 
And,  above  all,  the  saloon  provided  information  and  company.  The 
bartender  could  direct  and  advise  salesmen,  pass  the  time  of  day  with 
hucksters,  enlighten  strangers  about  the  habits  of  the  town.  "For  many 
the  saloon  is  the  most  precious  thing  in  life  -  why  destroy  it?"15 

Exclusive  of  its  psychological  benefits,  the  saloon  did  great  service, 
as  well  as  great  harm,  to  workingmen.  It  was,  in  particular,  the  friend 
of  the  immigrant,  his  only  contact  with  the  outer  world.  It  is  easy  to 
forget  how  small  and  friendless  the  world  of  the  immigrant  was.  In 
Henry  Roth's  brilliant  novel  about  Jewish  immigrant  culture  in  New 


York  City,  Call  It  Sleep,  a  Jewish  mother  is  made  to  describe  the  con- 
striction of  her  life,  after  several  years  spent  in  America: 

But  here  I  am.  I  know  there  is  a  church  on  a  certain  street  to  my 
left,  the  vegetable  market  is  to  my  right,  behind  me  are  the  railroad 
tracks  and  the  broken  rocks,  and  before  me,  a  few  blocks  away  is  a 
certain  store  window  that  has  a  kind  of  white-wash  on  it  —  and  faces 
in  the  white-wash,  the  kind  children  draw.  Within  this  pale  is  my 
America,  and  if  I  ventured  further  I  should  be  lost.16 

For  many  new  Americans,  the  local  saloon  was  the  arbiter  of  their  small 

The  saloon  provided  immigrant  votes  to  the  city  boss  and  corrupt 
politics  to  America;  but  it  could  only  do  so  by  providing  jobs  and  help 
to  the  immigrants  in  return.  The  ward  heelers  and  barkeepers  were  the 
first  welfare  workers  of  the  slums.  The  saloons  were  the  first  labor  ex- 
changes and  union  halls.  They  had  names  such  as  the  "Poor  Man's  Re- 
treat/' "Everybody' s  Exchange,"  "The  Milkman's  Exchange,"  "The  So- 
cial," "The  Fred,"  and  "The  Italian  Headquarters."  The  saloonkeepers 
had  a  near  monopoly  on  small  halls  which  could  be  used  for  labor 
meetings  and  lodges.  They  would  charge  no  rent  for  these  places  in 
return  for  the  privilege  of  selling  liquor  at  the  meetings.  A  dry  labor 
leader  confessed  that  he  felt  a  "sensation  akin  to  shame"  when  he  did 
not  buy  a  glass  of  beer  in  the  free  hall  provided  by  a  saloon.17  In  one 
sense,  the  attack  on  the  saloons  was  the  attack  of  capital  on  the  haunts 
of  labor. 

The  East  Side  of  New  York,  which  produced  Al  Smith,  showed  the 
huge  influence  of  the  saloon  on  the  lives  and  careers  of  the  city  com- 
munities. Happy  memories  of  Smith's  early  days  were  set  among  lager 
beer  drinkers  in  the  Atlantic  Garden;  for,  in  the  words  of  an  East  Side 
reformer,  the  New  York  drinking  places  had  "the  monopoly  up  to  date 
of  all  the  cheer  in  the  tenements."18  Even  the  prohibition  clergyman 
from  the  Bowery,  Charles  Stelzle,  praised  certain  features  of  the  old- 
time  saloon,  pointing  out  that  most  drys  had  no  conception  of  what  it 
meant  to  workingmen. 

It  was  in  the  saloon  that  the  working  men  in  those  days  held  their 
christening  parties,  their  weddings,  their  dances,  their  rehearsals  for 
their  singing  societies,  and  all  other  social  functions.  .  .  .  Undoubt- 
edly the  chief  element  of  attraction  was  the  saloon-keeper  himself. 
...  He  was  a  social  force  in  the  community.  His  greeting  was  cordial, 
his  appearance  neat,  and  his  acquaintance  large.  He  had  access  to 
sources  of  information  which  were  decidedly  beneficial  to  the  men 
who  patronized  his  saloon.  Often  he  secured  work  for  both  the  work- 
ing man  and  his  children.19 

76   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

In  industrial  cities,  the  saloon  was  often  what  the  church  was  in  a 
village.  It  was  a  center  of  faith  and  tradition,  political  rather  than  reli- 
gious. It  was  a  place  of  recreation  and  joy.  Membership  in  the  right 
saloon  brought  social  prestige  and  good  jobs,  as  did  membership  in  the 
right  church.  Al  Smith's  political  career  began  in  Tom  Foley's  saloon, 
which  Smith  was  careful  to  call  a  "cafe"  in  his  memoirs.20  The  saloon- 
keeper had  in  his  gift  jobs  in  the  police  force,  the  fire  department,  and 
City  Hall  for  those  who  would  vote  the  right  ticket.  Tammany  chow- 
ders on  the  scale  of  Tim  Sullivan's  outshone  in  warmth  and  charity  any 
of  the  monotonous  overfeeding  that  took  place  at  Methodist  country 
picnics.  Al  Smith  loved  both  his  saloon  and  his  church,  allowing  both  a 
place  in  his  life.  His  Protestant  enemies  forgave  him  neither. 

Yet  there  were  saloons  and  saloons.  For  every  decent  saloon  that 
filled  a  need  in  the  community,  there  were  five  that  increased  poverty 
and  crime  among  working  people.  Immigration,  artificial  refrigeration 
to  preserve  beer  indefinitely,  and  the  incursion  of  the  English  liquor 
syndicate  into  the  American  market  led  to  the  phenomenon  of  too 
many  saloons  chasing  too  few  drinkers.  By  1909,  there  was  one  saloon 
for  every  three  hundred  people  in  the  cities.21  Where  the  saloonkeeper's 
job  depended  on  his  sales,  he  was  forced  to  go  out  on  the  streets, 
blandish  customers  into  his  bar,  and  deprive  the  wives  of  workingmen 
of  their  husband's  pay  envelopes.  If  sales  were  unsatisfactory,  he  was 
evicted  by  the  breweries,  which  owned  seven  out  of  ten  saloons  in 
America.  A  description  of  Beer  Town,  the  home  of  Hamm,  where  "the 
very  beery  breath  of  God"  filled  the  air,  spoke  of  the  saloonkeeper 
Tony  waylaying  the  brewery  workers  on  their  way  home: 

"Glazabeer,  boys?"  Tony  would  say,  blocking  their  way  on  the  road, 
in  his  hale  way  suggesting  that  good  fellowship  was  as  good  as  good 
beer.  "Begates,  Glazabeer,  boys?"  Begates,  slap  on  the  shoulder,  warm 
meeting,  the  bar  glistening  within,  no  shrewish  women,  no  brats,  no 
trouble,  glistening  warmly  of  forgetfulness  and  pleasure.  "A  schnit  of 
beer,  boys?"22 

Two  of  the  most  effective  propaganda  weapons  used  by  the  drys  were 
a  wet  appeal  to  the  Liquor  Dealers'  Association  of  Ohio  to  "create  the 
appetite  for  liquor  in  the  growing  boys,"  and  an  offer  by  the  Kentucky 
Distillers  Company  to  supply  the  Keeley  Institutes  for  inebriates  with 
a  mailing  list  of  their  regular  customers  at  the  cost  of  four  hundred 
dollars  for  every  fifty  thousand  names.23 

Moreover,  the  free  lunch  was  vastly  overrated  as  a  means  of  feeding 
the  poor.  The  saloonkeeper  was  in  business  to  make  money.  No  free 
lunches  were  provided  in  Southern  saloons,  since  Negroes  ate  too 
much  and  even  poor  whites  would  not  eat  out  of  the  same  dish  as 


Negroes.  In  large  cities,  bouncers  threw  out  of  saloons  any  man  who 
ate  more  than  his  money's  worth  of  drink.  Moreover,  the  barkeepers 
provided  only  dry  or  salty  food.  Rye  bread,  crackers,  cheese,  sausage, 
Wienerwurst,  sauerkraut,  salt  meat,  potato  salad,  dill  pickles,  pretzels, 
salt  fish,  dried  herring,  and  baked  beans  provided  the  staple  dishes. 
The  object  of  the  free  lunch  was  not  to  provide  nourishment  but 
merely  to  excite  an  undying  thirst.  Only  in  the  Far  West,  where  food 
was  abundant  and  cheap,  were  the  free  lunches  enough  to  put  all  the 
expensive  restaurants  out  of  business  —  so  much  so,  that  a  lady  tem- 
perance leader  complained  that  her  sons  could  only  afford  to  eat  in  the 
saloons  of  San  Francisco.  The  free  lunch  was,  however,  both  the  cause 
and  effect  of  an  American  custom.  The  frontier  habit  of  bolting  snacks 
while  standing  at  a  bar  or  counter  traveled  from  the  saloon  through 
the  drugstore  to  the  quick-lunch  dispensaries  of  modern  times. 

Competition  among  themselves  drove  the  brewers  and  distillers  into 
folly.  Although  many  of  the  saloons  were  vile  in  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, the  poor  quarters  of  the  cities  and  the  rural  slums  were  viler. 
The  filthy  bar  seemed  a  paradise  of  cleanliness  to  the  tenement 
dweller.  But,  at  the  moment  when  the  progressive  wave  of  reform  was 
pressing  for  better  conditions  of  life,  the  old  city  saloon  was  becoming 

Very  often  it  stood  on  a  corner  so  as  to  have  two  street  entrances 
and  wave  a  gilded  beer  sign  at  pedestrians  drifting  along  from  any 
point  of  the  compass.  The  entrance  was  through  swinging  doors  which 
were  shuttered  so  that  any  one  standing  on  the  outside  could  not  see 
what  was  happening  on  the  inside.  The  windows  were  masked  by 
grille  work,  potted  ferns,  one-sheet  posters  and  a  fly-specked  array  of 
fancy-shaped  bottles  which  were  merely  symbols  and  not  merchandise. 
The  bar  counter  ran  lengthwise  at  one  side  of  the  dim  interior  and 
always  had  a  brass  foot-rail  in  front  of  it.  Saw-dust  on  the  floor  was 
supposed  to  absorb  the  drippings.  Behind  the  bar  was  a  mirror  and 
below  the  mirror  a  tasteful  medley  of  lemons,  assorted  glasses  and  con- 
tainers brightly  labeled  to  advertise  champagne,  muscatel,  port,  sweet 
Catawba,  sauterne  and  that  sovereign  remedy  for  bad  colds,  Rock  and 
Rye.  Most  of  these  ornamental  trimmings  were  aging  in  glass  and 
there  was  no  demand  for  them  whatsoever.24 

Such  proliferating  drinking  places  in  industrial  cities  occupied  most 
street  corners  and  some  of  the  block  in  between.  In  1908,  there  were 
some  3000  breweries  and  distilleries  in  the  United  States,  and  more 
than  100,000  legal  saloons.25  There  were,  in  addition,  some  50,000  blind 
pigs  and  tigers.  Over  half  of  the  population  of  Boston  and  Chicago 
paid  a  daily  visit  to  the  saloon.  Chicago  under  Capone  was  a  paradise 
compared  with  Chicago  at  this  time.  'When  a  drink  parlor  was  opened 

anywhere  in  the  r  ***  Br0thew  n°**n«*«» 

A  — «««au  Of  tfl€ 

X  S00  ^  «H  saloons  and  the'1""1"  Me  Wrst  ^  <*  Chi' 



matic  decrease  in  crime  and  poverty  and  evil  if  only  the  breeding 
places  of  these  ills,  the  saloons  and  the  brothels,  could  be  eliminated.27 
A  muckraker  in  1908  wrote  in  approval  of  the  wave  of  dry  legislation 
in  the  South: 

Everywhere  the  saloons  have  disobeyed  in  the  most  flagrant  fashion 
all  rules  made  for  their  government  and  regulation;  and  when  put 
under  pressure  to  reform  they  have  fought  back  through  their  char- 
acteristic American  alliance  with  bad  politics.  So  insolent  has  been  the 
attitude  not  only  of  the  saloon-keepers  but  also  of  the  brewers,  distil- 
lers, and  wholesale  liquor  men,  that  many  communities  have  gone  dry 
simply  because  of  the  disgust  which  this  attitude  has  bred  in  good 
citizens.  Men  who  do  not  object  to  the  moderate  use  of  liquor,  men 
who  use  it  themselves,  have  held  the  balance  of  power  in  these  pro- 
hibition elections;  the  result  shows  how  they  have  voted.28 

It  was  the  failure  of  the  liquor  trade  to  reform  itself  that  brought  the 
wrath  of  the  moderates  and  progressives  on  its  head.  The  smelly  crew 
of  old  soaks  and  regulars  was  taken  out  of  the  bar  to  the  polling  booth 
once  too  often.  "They  had  never  been  told  they  stood  for  liberty;  they 
stood  rubily,  stubbornly,  with  the  strong  brown  smell  of  shame  in  their 
nostrils,  for  the  bloodshot,  malt-mouthed,  red-nosed,  loose-pursed  De- 
mon Rum."29 

In  England,  prohibition  was  unsuccessful  because  the  brewers  put 
their  own  public  houses  in  order.  In  the  United  States,  the  brewers  and 
distillers  would  not  clean  up  the  saloons,  despite  the  repeated  warn- 
ings of  their  own  spokesmen,  Hugh  Fox  and  Percy  Andreae.  For  in- 
stance, Andreae  advised  the  International  Brewers'  Congress  of  1911 
to  support  temperance  reformers.  If  the  brewers  would  only  license 
respectable  saloonkeepers,  close  the  saloons  in  red-light  districts,  and 
agree  to  the  suppression  of  saloons  in  dry  areas  with  proper  compensa- 
tion, then  they  would  defeat  the  drys.  For  the  decent  saloon  was  the 
most  powerful  enemy  of  the  prohibitionists.  The  brewers  applauded 
Andreae  but  followed  their  nose  for  quick  profits  rather  than  his  sug- 
gestions. In  the  cut-throat  struggle  against  each  other  to  survive  at  all, 
profits  were  more  important  to  liquor  traders  than  public  relations.  Al- 
though the  area  of  their  operation  grew  smaller  each  year,  177,790  le- 
gal saloons  were  still  open  on  the  eve  of  national  prohibition.80 

There  is  truth  in  the  wet  excuse  that  the  increasing  efforts  of  the 
drys  to  suppress  the  saloons  increased  the  degeneracy  of  the  saloons. 
No  sensible  businessman  was  going  to  invest  money  in  properties  that 
might  be  closed  up  without  compensation  within  a  year.  The  fact  that 
the  prohibitionists  were  winning  made  the  drinkers  drink  more  franti- 
cally and  the  saloonkeepers  try  to  gouge  out  a  maximum  profit  while 
they  could.  Despite  dry  .successes  in  winning  state  and  county  prohibi- 


tion  measures  between  1906  and  1917,  the  consumption  of  liquor  in 
gallons  reached  an  all-time  high  in  those  years,  while  the  very  year 
that  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  passed  saw  the  consumption  of 
spirits  reach  the  highest  total  for  thirty-seven  years.  The  threat  and  the 
passage  of  prohibition  put  its  opponents  on  as  long  a  spree  as  they 
could  afford.  Although  it  may  be  salutary  for  a  man  to  live  each  day  as 
if  it  were  his  last,  it  is  not  advisable  for  him  to  drink  each  drink  as  if  it 
were  so. 

Once  the  countryside  of  America  had  largely  rid  itself  of  its  saloons, 
it  might  have  been  expected  to  leave  the  city  saloons  in  peace.  But  the 
drys  claimed  that  the  city  saloons  forced  the  country  back  into  the 
drink  evils  from  which  it  was  trying  to  escape.  The  saloons  at  the  city's 
edge  helped  to  nullify  country  prohibition  and  to  put  up  the  costs  of 
law  enforcement  in  dry  districts.  The  city  saloon  sent  back  country 
immigrants  as  penniless  drunks  to  their  villages  and  threw  them  onto 
local  support;  these  drunks  were  the  very  people  whom  rural  voters 
had  aimed  to  protect  against  the  saloon.  Moreover,  the  city  was  con- 
stantly renewing  its  vital  strength  from  the  sons  and  daughters  of  the 
country,  and  their  parents  had  the  right  to  protect  their  children 
against  the  temptations  of  their  new  environment.  Finally,  according 
to  the  Census  of  1910,  a  majority  of  the  population  of  America  still 
lived  in  the  country,  and  that  majority  was  entitled  to  protect  itself 
against  the  vice  and  corruption  of  the  minority  which  patronized  the 
city  saloon.31  For  these  reasons,  the  drys  could  never  accept  a  Dry 
Curtain  situation,  a  partition  in  which  the  sober  country  left  the  city 
saloons  in  peace. 

Yet  the  drys,  in  seeking  to  close  all  saloons,  did  not  admit  the  need 
to  provide  compensations  for  the  facilities  which  the  saloons  had  pro- 
vided. Their  point  of  view  was  that  until  the  saloons  had  been  closed 
nothing  should  be  done  to  replace  them.  The  competition  of  cinema 
and  music  hall,  of  public  parks  and  libraries,  of  church  halls  and  tem- 
perance bars,  had  not  lessened  the  quantity  of  drinking  before  the 
Great  War.  While  the  saloons  still  existed,  the  drinker  could  not  begin 
his  redemption.  The  drys  made  the  added  mistake  of  believing  that 
those  who  supported  the  prohibition  of  the  saloons  also  supported  the 
prohibition  of  the  liquor  trade.  While  the  drys  used  the  word  "pro- 
hibition" loosely  to  attract  both  the  foes  of  the  saloon  and  the  foes  of 
all  liquor  to  their  banner,  their  gloss  over  their  own  extreme  definition 
of  prohibition  made  many  of  their  early  supporters  feel  later  that  they 
had  been  tricked  into  the  banning  of  the  whole  liquor  trade.  Moreover, 
even  the  drys  fell  victim  to  their  own  lack  of  clarity.  They  tended  to 
believe  that  the  saloon  and  the  drink  habit  were  one  and  the  same 
thing.  Remove  the  first  and  the  second  would  also  disappear. 


This  confusion  of  dry  thought  was  expressed  by  one  of  their  writers 
on  the  eve  of  national  prohibition.  According  to  him,  the  saloon  had 
been  proved  by  1919  to  be  in  no  sense  a  social  necessity.  Men  went  to 
the  saloon  primarily  for  a  drink.  The  drink  habit  itself  was  abnormal 
and  artificial.  Therefore,  the  saloon  had  created  an  abnormal  demand 
for  its  services.  The  great  success  of  the  teetotal  canteens  in  Army 
camps  during  the  Great  War  proved  that  young  men  did  not  really 
want  liquor.  It  was  only  the  false  lure  of  the  saloon  that  gave  them  the 
habit.  Once  prohibition  was  established,  the  home  and  the  church 
would  soon  fill  all  the  wants  once  filled  by  the  cancer  of  the  saloon,  and 
the  artificial  taste  for  liquor  would  perish  utterly.32 

The  drys  could  not  logically  provide  substitutes  for  the  saloon.  They 
were  the  victims  of  their  own  propaganda.  They  had  condemned  the 
saloon  for  so  long  as  the  ultimate  vice  that  they  could  not  admit  its 
small  virtues.  Moreover,  they  wanted  to  spend  all  their  funds  on  the 
campaign  against  the  liquor  trade  rather  than  on  refuges  for  displaced 
drinkers.  The  future  must  look  after  itself.  Only  those  small  sections  of 
the  dry  movement  which  were  more  concerned  with  saving  men  than 
shutting  down  their  drinking  haunts  tried  to  find  alternative  meeting 
places  for  drinkers.  General  Evangeline  Booth  declared  that  the  Salva- 
tion Army  would  take  over  a  string  of  saloons,  coast  to  coast,  and  serve 
soft  drinks  over  the  old  bars.  For  it  was  important  to  preserve  "the 
psychology  of  the  brass  rail.  There  is  something  about  the  shining  bar 
which  brings  all  men  to  a  common  footing.  The  easy  and  relaxed  atti- 
tude of  those  who  lean  against  the  mahogany  or  cherry  suggests  solid 
comfort.  Because  wine  and  beer  are  to  go,  shall  not  a  man  take  his  ease 
in  his  own  inn?"88 

The  refusal  of  most  of  the  drys  to  provide  substitutes  for  the  saloon 
created  a  vacuum.  And  drinking  abhors  a  vacuum.  If  there  were  no 
saloon,  another  drinking  place  would  be  found.  The  drys,  by  failing 
to  compensate  for  the  needs  of  those  who  drank  in  the  saloons,  drove 
them  to  drink  in  worse  haunts.  The  prohibition  of  an  abuse  too  often 
denies  the  preservation  of  a  good. 

The  struggle  between  the  Protestant  evangelical  churches  and  the 
saloons  was  based  on  different  views  of  the  role  of  God  and  man  in 
society.  It  was  also  bound  up  with  nativist  fears  of  the  Roman  Catholic 
Church  and  of  the  corruption  which  the  liquor  trade  had  brought  to 
politics  and  life  in  the  large  cities.  The  problem  of  the  drys  was  to 
translate  this  struggle  into  political  terms.  If  the  drys  wanted  a  law 
against  the  saloons,  they  would  have  to  obtain  it  through  the  demo- 
cratic process.  The  first  temperance  wave  had  used  political  pressure 
to  secure  dry  laws;  but  it  was  not  opposed  by  an  organized  liquor 

Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


trade.  The  entry  of  the  liquor  trade  into  politics  after  the  Civil  War 
made  the  drys  follow  them  there.  The  huge  influence  of  the  brewers 
and  distillers  within  both  the  Republican  and  Democratic  parties  made 
the  prohibitionists  set  up  a  party  of  their  own.  Its  failure  led  the  drys 
to  find  other  methods  of  political  pressure.  By  the  manipulation  of 
electorates  and  legislators,  the  drys  sought  the  legal  victory  of  the 
churches  over  the  saloons.  As  a  leader  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
wrote  in  1908,  "It  was  already  recognized  that  if  the  church  was  right, 
the  saloon  was  wrong,  and  that  the  church  must  overcome  the  saloon 
or  eventually  be  overcome  by  it."84 


The  Politics  of  Reform 

The  typical  American  man  had  his  hand  on  a  lever  and 
his  eye  on  a  curve  in  his  road;  his  living  depended  on 
keeping  up  an  average  speed  of  forty  miles  an  hour,  tend- 
ing always  to  become  sixty,  eighty,  or  a  hundred,  and  he 
could  not  admit  emotions  or  anxieties  or  subconscious  dis- 
tractions, more  than  he  could  admit  whisky  or  drugs,  with- 
out breaking  his  neck. 

The  Education  of  Henry  Adams,  1919 

Jay  Gould  once  said  that  in  Republican  districts  he  was 
a  Republican,  in  Democratic  districts  a  Democrat,  but  first, 
last,  and  all  die  time  he  was  for  the  Erie  Railroad.  That  is 
precisely  our  policy. 

Founder  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League 

PROHIBITION  was  the  joker  in  major  party  politics.  It  straddled 
the  tenuous  line  between  the  Republicans  and  Democrats,  and  it 
made  blatant  the  secret  conflicts  which  hid  under  party  unity.  In  1884, 
the  issue  of  prohibition  helped  to  take  the  White  House  from  the  Re- 
publicans, although  it  helped  to  restore  the  presidency  to  the  Grand 
Old  Party  later  by  setting  the  Democrats  at  each  other's  throats.  In 
nation  and  in  state,  in  county  and  in  town,  in  election  and  in  conversa- 
tion, prohibition  took  over  from  wine  as  the  mocker  and  causer  of  dis- 

The  Prohibition  party  was  formed  in  1869.  With  chattel  slavery 
abolished  through  Civil  War  and  presidential  action,  certain  reformers 
wanted  to  abolish  rum  slavery  by  similar  means.  As  Gerrit  Smith,  twice 
radical  Abolitionist  candidate  for  President  and  associate  of  John 
Brown,  put  the  matter: 

Our  involuntary  slaves  are  set  free,  but  our  millions  of  voluntary 
slaves  still  clang  their  chains.  The  lot  of  the  literal  slave,  of  him  whom 
others  have  enslaved,  is  indeed  a  hard  one;  nevertheless  it  is  a  paradise 


84   /   THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

compared  with  the  lot  of  him  who  has  enslaved  himself  —  especially 
of  him  who  has  enslaved  himself  to  alcohol.1 

Since  neither  the  Republican  nor  the  Democratic  party  would  take  a 
stand  against  the  saloon,  those  who  believed  in  prohibition  had  to  find 
another  party.  And  this  they  did.  In  1872,  a  Prohibition  party  ran  its 
candidates  in  the  presidential  election  on  a  platform  of  universal  suf- 
frage, business  regulation,  public  education,  encouragement  of  immi- 
gration, and  constitutional  prohibition.  The  ticket  received  a  little 
more  than  five  thousand  votes  out  of  a  total  of  more  than  six  million. 

The  major  political  parties  could  afford  to  ignore  a  puny  and  ineffec- 
tive competitor,  until  the  second  prohibition  wave  and  the  election  of 
1884  gave  them  pause.  In  that  election,  the  ^Republican  presidential 
candidate,  James  C.  Elaine,  lost  narrowly  to  the  Democrat,  Grover 
Cleveland.  The  Republicans  lost  New  York  state  by  1047  votes  as  well 
as  the  election;  the  Prohibition  party  candidate,  the  dry  Governor  of 
Kansas,  John  P.  St.  John,  polled  24,999  dry  votes  in  that  state.  Most  of 
these  votes  would  have  been  Republican.  The  unfortunate  remark  of 
Dr.  Burchard  that  the  Democrats  were  the  party  of  Rum,  Romanism, 
and  Rebellion  had  given  the  wet,  immigrant  vote  to  Cleveland,  even  if 
it  had  rallied  the  drys  to  Elaine.  Thus,  for  the  first  time,  the  Prohibition 
party  and  the  dry  issue  had  tipped  the  balance  in  a  national  election 
by  taking  important  votes  from  a  major  party  candidate.  Prohibition 
had  played  its  first  trick  on  American  national  politics. 

The  Republican  party  paid  the  drys  the  compliment  of  mentioning 
their  cause  in  their  platform  of  1888.  For  the  Prohibition  party  prom- 
ised to  become  a  dangerous  third  party  in  those  rural  areas  where  the 
Grand  Old  Party  was  strong.  At  the  Republican  convention,  the  Bou- 
telle  resolution  was  adopted  as  an  annex  to  the  party  platform.  It  ran, 
"The  first  concern  of  all  good  government  is  the  virtue  and  sobriety  of 
the  people  and  the  purity  of  the  home.  The  Republican  party  cordially 
sympathizes  with  all  wise  and  well-directed  efforts  for  the  promotion 
of  Temperance  and  morality/'  The  wet  Republican  Commercial  Ga- 
zette of  Cincinnati  commented  nastily  that  if  the  plank  had  meant 
anything  it  would  not  have  been  passed.  And  Bonfort's  Wine  and  Spirit 
Circular  went  so  far  as  to  praise  the  resolution,  stating  on  behalf  of  the 
wine  and  spirit  trade  that  they  accorded  the  declaration  their  unre- 
served approval.2 

At  the  election,  the  Republican  presidential  candidate,  Benjamin 
Harrison,  barely  defeated  Cleveland;  he  secured  only  a  minority  of  the 
popular  vote.  Had  the  greater  part  of  the  quarter  of  a  million  Prohibi- 
tion party  votes  gone  to  Harrison,  he  would  have  won  a  popular  ma- 
jority. Again  the  Prohibition  party  seemed  to  hold  the  balance  of 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/   85 

power  in  national  elections.  The  rise  of  the  Populists  as  the  most  ag- 
gressive third  party  in  1892  and  the  increasing  majorities  of  successful 
presidential  candidates  after  four  successive  narrow  elections,  how- 
ever, made  the  Prohibition  party  lose  all  the  precarious  power  which  it 
had  once  exercised.  The  Socialist  candidate,  Eugene  V.  Debs,  polled 
more  votes  than  the  Prohibitionist  candidate  after  the  turn  of  the 
century,  while  the  Progressive  party  attracted  those  voters  who  were  in- 
terested in  general  reform  outside  the  major  parties,  not  in  the  particu- 
lar reform  of  constitutional  prohibition.  It  was  useless  for  the  Prohibi- 
tionists to  say  of  the  Republicans  and  Democrats,  "like  Herod  and 
Pilate,  they  make  common  cause  to  crucify  the  Christ  in  politics  in 
every  election."3  Few  voters  heeded  the  accusation. 

Yet  the  chief  contender  of  the  Prohibition  party  rose  from  the  dry 
ranks.  In  1893,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  was  founded.  It  gradually  took 
over  the  leadership  of  the  dry  cause.  Indeed,  the  reason  for  its  founda- 
tion was  the  very  failure  of  the  Prohibition  party.  Oberlin,  Ohio,  where 
the  League  began,  had  been  a  center  of  the  abolition  movement  and 
was  a  staunchly  Republican  town  in  honor  of  the  party  which  had 
overcome  slavery.  Prohibition  party  speakers  were  refused  the  use  of 
the  pulpits  there.  Although  the  Oberlin  Anti-Saloon  League  was 
founded  to  work  with  drys  in  both  parties,  it  amalgamated  with  such 
groups  &s  the  Anti-Saloon  Republicans  and  helped  to  choose  as  the 
first  president  of  the  National  Anti-Saloon  League,  Hiram  Price,  who 
had  been  five  times  a  Republican  Congressman  from  Ohio  and  who 
had  tried  to  block  the  nomination  of  a  Prohibition  party  ticket  in  1884 
in  the  interests  of  the  Grand  Old  Party.4  The  Prohibition  party  leaders 
were  justified  in  thinking  that  the  League  was  hostile  to  them,  al- 
though they  were  less  justified  in  accusing  it  of  being  an  annex  of  the 
Republican  party.  Although  many  of  the  League  leaders  were  person- 
ally Republicans,  they  never  supported  a  wet  Republican  candidate  for 
office  against  a  dry  Democrat  who  had  a  better  chance  of  election.  It 
is,  however,  true  that  when  the  League  was  dominant  in  Midwestern 
politics  during  the  congressional  elections  of  1916,  the  number  of  dry 
Republican  Midwesterners  in  the  House  of  Representatives  rose  from 
a  total  of  twenty-six  to  sixty-five,  while  the  number  of  dry  Democrats 
declined.  Outside  the  South  the  League  preferred  to  work  for  dry  can- 
didates within  the  Republican  party,  especially  when  the  Republicans 
became  the  majority  party  in  charge  of  law  enforcement  after  1920. 

As  a  result  of  this  policy  of  infiltration  within  and  pressure  upon  the 
major  parties,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  fell  out  with  the  Prohibition 
party.  The  Prohibition  party  found  the  League  policy  of  supporting 
"good  men"  in  both  major  parties  immoral.  Its  spokesmen  said  that  it 
was  useless  to  elect  "the  angel  Gabriel  himself,  if  his  party  relied  on 


the  support  and  funds  of  the  liquor  trade."5  The  Prohibitionists  had 
spent  forty  years  in  the  wilderness,  stirring  up  sentiment  for  prohibi- 
tion, and  now  another  organization  threatened  to  reap  the  fruits  of  its 
labors.  As  Eugene  Chafin,  Prohibition  party  candidate  for  President  in 
1908,  declared,  "We  have  got  to  kill  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  then 
lick  the  Republican  and  Democratic  parties."6  To  those  who  cared  for 
good  government  and  political  morality  as  well  as  prohibition,  some  of 
the  League's  methods  smacked  of  the  devil.  The  League  was  prepared 
to  support  men  of  questionable  morality  and  habits  who  would  vote 
dry  against  men  of  honesty  and  integrity  whose  election  was  im- 
probable. One  statement  in  the  League's  CatecKism  admitted  this 
concern  with  success  rather  than  morality.  To  the  question,  "May  the 
League  properly  favor  the  election  of  candidates  who  are  not  wholly  in 
faith  and  practice  acceptable  to  friends  of  temperance  reform?"  the 
answer  ran,  "While  it  is  desirable  that  candidates  for  office  should  be  in 
all  respects  acceptable,  it  may  be  necessary  at  times,  in  order  to  secure 
some  desired  end,  to  vote  for  candidates  committed  to  the  object, 
though  not  wholly  committed  to  the  plan  and  purpose  of  the  League."7 
Such  Jesuitical  reasoning  in  support  of  drunken  Republican  and  Demo- 
cratic hacks  who  could  be  scared  into  voting  dry  brought  down  the 
wrath  of  moral  Prohibitionists  on  the  heads  of  the  League. 

Yet,  whatever  the  virtues  of  the  League's  political  methods,  its  legis- 
lative success  was  undoubted.  The  policy  of  the  League  worked  in 
terms  of  passing  dry  laws  through  state  legislatures  and  Congress.  But 
it  did  not  work  at  getting  those  laws  enforced.  As  the  Prohibition  party 
rightly  pointed  out,  there  was  "just  as  much  sense  in  voting  for  a  horse- 
thief  to  enforce  the  law  against  stealing  horses"  as  in  voting  for  the 
major  parties  to  enforce  the  law  against  the  liquor  traffic.8  Professional 
politicians  were  quick  to  discover  that  lax  enforcement  would  not 
make  the  drys  bolt  their  party,  while  firm  enforcement  would  offend 
the  wets.  Thus  the  formula  of  dry  law  and  little  enforcement  gave  the 
Republicans  and  Democrats  the  excuse  to  obey  the  League  with  re- 
spect to  means  and  disappoint  it  with  respect  to  ends.  The  devious 
methods  of  the  League  made  for  devious  returns.  And  the  uncompro- 
mising Prohibition  party,  although  it  could  never  have  taken  over  the 
White  House,  could  play  Cassandra  on  the  edge  of  the  battle  and 
prophesy  the  ills  which  the  League  would  and  did  bring  upon  the  dry 
cause  through  its  success. 

Perhaps  the  fairest  estimate  of  the  role  played  by  the  Prohibition 
party  and  the  Anti-Saloon  League  in  the  dry  victories  was  made  by  a 
man  who  defected  from  the  first  to  the  second.  John  G.  Woolley,  a  re- 
formed drunkard,  became  Prohibition  party  candidate  for  President  in 
1900.  He  was  a  great  orator  with  a  "God-given  power  to  stir  the  hearts, 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/   87 

awaken  the  consciences,  and  compel  conviction  in  the  minds  of  his 
hearers."9  It  was  he  who,  with  his  keynote  speech  at  the  national  con- 
vention of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  in  1913,  brought  the  audience  of 
four  thousand  to  their  feet,  "yelling  like  a  regiment  of  Louisiana  tigers 
making  a  charge"  for  the  new  cause  of  nationwide  prohibition.  His 
text  was  "Make  a  chain;  for  the  land  is  full  of  bloody  crimes  and  the 
city  is  full  of  violence/'10  He  wanted  to  reconcile  all  drys  together  in 
the  struggle.  And  if  he  could  not  bring  about  this  reconciliation  and 
preferred  to  work  with  the  successful  League,  he  did  not  forget  the 
Prohibition  party.  In  his  words,  "The  Prohibition  Party  was  like  a  fire 
bell.  It  awoke  the  people.  They  are  up  and  doing.  In  such  a  case  there 
are  two  things  to  do,  ring  the  bell  more  or  put  out  the  fire.  I  am  for 
putting  out  the  fire,  whatever  becomes  of  the  bell."11 

The  decline  of  the  Prohibition  party  from  a  progressive  organization 
into  one  which  sought  support  from  the  racist  and  fundamentalist  cru- 
sades of  the  twenties  parallels  the  decline  of  the  rural  radical  move- 
ments from  the  Populists  to  the  Ku  Klux  Klan.  For  the  first  time  in 
1924,  the  party  had  a  plank  on  the  Bible  and  a  plank  on  the  American- 
ization of  aliens.  The  first  plank  stated  that  the  Bible  was  "the  Magna 
Carta  of  human  liberty  and  national  safety"  and  should  have  a  large 
place  in  the  public  schools.  The  second  stated  that  large  numbers  of 
unassimilated  aliens  were  a  present  menace  to  American  institutions 
and  should  be  Americanized  by  a  constructive  program.  These  planks 
were  a  far  cry  from  planks  in  the  first  platform  of  the  Prohibition 
party  —  planks  which  supported  "the  imperishable  principles  of  civil 
and  religious  liberty"  in  the  Constitution  and  "a  liberal  and  just  policy" 
to  promote  foreign  immigration  to  the  United  States. 


THE  ACTIVITIES  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  in  its  home  state  of  Ohio 
give  a  fair  microcosm  of  its  activities  throughout  the  nation.  Ohio 
was  a  state  precariously  split  between  allegiance  to  the  Democrats 
and  loyalty  to  the  Republicans,  between  industrial  towns  and  country 
villages  and  farms.  In  such  urban  centers  as  Cleveland  and  Cincin- 
nati, the  large  "foreign  element"  of  the  state  population,  estimated  at 
one-third  of  the  whole  in  the  Wickersham  report,  was  clustered  behind 
the  wet  machines.12  In  the  dry  rural  areas,  the  voters  were  directed 
by  the  pulpits  and  the  Anti-Saloon  League  to  cast  their  ballots  in 
support  of  the  dry  cause.  Through  this  conflict  between  factory  and 
farm,  prohibition  and  liquor,  Ohio  became  a  litmus  paper  to  party 
politics.  Indeed,  since  the  founding  of  the  Republic,  Democrats  and 
Republicans  have  considered  Ohio  so  pivotal  that  they  have  selected 


more  Presidents  from  that  state  than  from  any  other.  In  1920,  both 
major  parties  went  so  far  as  to  nominate  an  Ohioan  to  be  their  leader 
and  sway  the  state  to  their  side. 

Ohio  was  a  hotbed  of  the  abolitionists,  the  prohibitionists,  and  the 
suffragettes.  These  three  reform  groups  seemed  to  flourish  in  a  state 
whose  hinterlands  were  studded  with  the  pulpits  of  the  Methodist  and 
Baptist  churches.  Prohibition  sentiment  was  strong  in  the  state  before 
the  Anti-Saloon  League  was  ever  founded.  In  1851,  an  antilicense 
clause  was  put  in  the  state  constitution,  although  this  clause  was  by- 
passed through  a  law  providing  for  a  liquor  tax  rather  than  a  liquor 
fee.  In  1883,  a  prohibition  amendment  to  the  state  constitution  was 
passed  by  a  majority  of  those  voting  on  the  issue,  although  it  failed 
because  a  majority  of  all  the  votes  cast  in  the  election  were  not  cast  for 
the  amendment. 

But  industry  came  to  Ohio  along  with  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  and 
the  German  brewers  of  Cincinnati  began  to  organize  the  new  wet  city 
masses  against  the  pressure  of  the  dry  congregations  in  the  country. 
The  League  had  to  adopt  a  policy  of  conquering  the  state  step  by  step. 
First  by  local  option  elections,  then  by  county  option  elections  after 
1908,  the  state  was  dried  up.18  Meanwhile,  pressure  was  put  on  the 
state  legislature  to  help  the  drys  in  every  way.  Within  ten  years  of  its 
first  victory  in  defeating  State  Senator  Locke  in  1894,  the  League 
defeated  over  seventy  wet  candidates  who  were  entitled  by  party 
custom  to  renomination.14  Its  triumphs  culminated  in  the  election  of  a 
Democrat,  J.  M.  Pattison,  as  Governor  of  Ohio  against  the  incumbent 
Republican  Governor,  Myron  T.  Herrick,  in  1905.  The  League  had 
vainly  asked  the  Republican  party  in  Ohio  to  nominate  a  dry  candi- 
date; instead,  the  Republican  boss  of  Cincinnati,  George  B.  Cox,  had 
seen  to  the  second  nomination  of  the  wet  Herrick.  In  a  campaign  of 
unprecedented  vigor,  the  League  workers  turned  their  pulpits  "into 
a  battery  of  Krupp  guns,  from  which  to  hurl  the  bursting  shells  and 
solid  shot  against  the  saloon  and  its  defenders."15  Pattison  was  elected 
by  a  majority  of  some  42,000  votes.  The  influence  of  the  League  was 
dramatically  shown  by  the  fact  that  the  entire  Republican  ticket  was 
elected  in  the  rest  of  the  state. 

The  major  parties  heeded  their  lesson  in  Ohio.  They  trod  warily  with 
the  drys.  And  the  "Ohio  Idea"  of  political  action  by  the  churches  and 
the  drys  through  the  Anti-Saloon  League  spread.  The  "Ohio  Idea" 
consisted  of  the  use  of  paid  professional  officials  and  workers  who  gave 
their  entire  time  to  League  activity,  a  financial  system  based  upon 
monthly  subscriptions,  political  agitation  directed  toward  the  defeat 
of  wet  candidates  and  the  election  of  dry  candidates,  and  concentra- 
tion upon  the  liquor  question  to  the  exclusion  of  all  other  issues.16  The 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/   89 

League's  methods  of  agitation,  legislation,  and  enforcement  were  also 
broadcast.  The  materials  for  dry  agitation  could  be  secured  from  the 
Westerville  printing  plant  of  the  League,  which  was  producing  forty 
tons  of  temperance  literature  each  month  by  1912.  Advice  on  methods 
of  legislative  pressure  were  contained  in  Anti-Saloon  League  Year- 
books or  were  available  in  the  flesh  by  experts  sent  from  the  national 
headquarters  in  Ohio.  As  for  enforcement,  detectives  were  supplied 
to  dry  communities  to  denounce  liquor  law  violators.  By  their  success 
in  Ohio,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  became  the  model  of  reform  pressure 
groups  throughout  the  nation. 

The  industrialism  of  Ohio  itself,  however,  made  total  victory  there 
very  difficult.  It  was  easier  for  the  Anti-Saloon  League  to  win  battles 
in  rural  Southern  and  Western  states.  Although  the  drys  controlled 
the  Ohio  legislature  where  the  countryside  was  overrepresented,  the 
large  wet  votes  of  Cincinnati  and  Cleveland  kept  Ohio  wet  in  the 
state-wide  referendums  of  1914, 1915,  and  1917.  In  1918,  a  week  before 
Armistice  Day,  a  state  prohibition  amendment  which  allowed  the 
manufacture  and  importation  of  liquor  for  home  use  did  finally  pass 
•  by  a  small  majority.  Nevertheless,  by  another  referendum  in  1919,  the 
people  of  Ohio  narrowly  disapproved  of  the  ratification  of  the  Eight- 
eenth Amendment  by  their  state  legislature,  which  duly  ignored  this 
slap  in  the  face.  The  following  passage  of  the  Nineteenth  Amendment 
and  the  extension  of  the  suffrage  to  women  in  Ohio  did  something 
to  ease  the  dry  situation  in  the  state.  For  the  first  time  in  1920,  the 
League  could  guarantee  a  popular  majority  for  dry  measures  in  Ohio, 
after  twenty-seven  years  of  agitation. 

The  care  which  politicians  took  of  the  League  and  of  the  brewers 
in  Ohio  was  exquisite.  Both  major  parties  did  their  best  to  alienate 
neither  wet  nor  dry.  There  was  a  real  fear  in  both  parties  that  the 
nomination  of  a  politician  honestly  committed  to  either  side  of  the 
prohibition  issue  would  throw  the  election  to  the  opposing  party.  The 
Ohio  dry  Republicans  even  put  out  a  pamphlet  in  1917  which  quoted 
General  Critchfield's  statement  that  "the  Republican  party  never  lost 
an  election  in  Ohio  except  as  a  result  of  passing  some  measure  looking 
to  the  regulation  or  curtailment  of  the  evils  of  the  liquor  traffic."  The 
pamphlet  went  on  to  declare  that,  as  a  consequence,  the  Republicans 
in  Ohio  had  compromised  too  much  with  the  wets.  The  Democrats, 
seeing  the  growing  dry  sentiment,  were  preparing  to  lead  it.  With  their 
control  of  an  efficient  political  machine,  this  would  give  them  control 
of  the  state  for  many  years.  Therefore,  the  saloon  should  be  eliminated 
from  Republican  and  state  politics  by  prohibition  of  the  liquor  trade. 
Only  then  would  the  Republicans  enjoy  their  natural  hold  on  all 
offices  in  Ohio.17 

90   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

Prohibition  in  Ohio  complicated  an  already  complicated  situation. 
The  League's  fanaticism  changed  the  natural  position  of  an  Ohio 
politician  from  a  slap  on  the  back  to  a  straddle.  Yet,  in  the  all-impor- 
tant years  of  the  Great  War,  when  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  was 
passed  in  Congress  and  ratified  by  the  states,  the  state  politicians 
were  sufficiently  weathercock  to  swing  with  the  dry  wind.  A  letter 
from  Senator  Warren  Harding's  political  manager  in  1917  clearly 
brings  out  the  temporary  factors  which  made  politicians  in  Ohio  go 
dry.  He  wrote,  "If  conventions  were  to  be  held  in  Ohio  this  year,  no 
political  party  would  dare  to  refuse  to  endorse  prohibition.  There  is 
only  one  side  to  the  moral,  economic,  political  or  patriot  phase  of  the 
question/'18  It  was  in  answer  to  this  temper  of  the  times,  as  read  by 
canny  politicians,  that  Harding  switched  from  wet  to  dry  and  took 
Ohio  with  him.  His  action  wrung  a  doubtful  compliment  from  the 
leader  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  Purley  A.  Baker.  He  said,  "Senator 
Harding,  you  can  talk  wetter  and  vote  dryer  than  any  man  I  have 
ever  known."19 

The  passage  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the  success  of 
Harding  in  the  presidential  election  of  1920  gave  the  Republican  and 
Anti-Saloon  League  leaders  of  Ohio  great  power.  At  last,  the  League's 
dream  of  a  national  prohibition  law  and  a  sympathetic  administration 
seemed  to  have  come  true.  Ohio  had  bred  great  men  in  politics  and 
in  prohibition.  Now  they  would  co-operate  to  realize  the  leader  of  the 
League's  intention,  "the  making  air  tight,  water  tight,  beer  tight,  wine 
tight,  whisky  tight,  for  all  time,  firmly  imbedded  and  buttressed  in  the 
constitution  of  the  United  States,  the  eighteenth  amendment."20  This 
was  the  "Ohio  Idea"  writ  large. 

A  further  idea  of  the  havoc  which  prohibition  wrought  in  state 
politics  can  be  gleaned  from  a  survey  of  the  states  in  1913,  the  year 
that  prohibition  began  to  play  a  part  through  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
in  national  elections.  In  California,  Nevada,  Illinois,  New  Hampshire, 
New  Jersey,  New  York,  Rhode  Island,  and  Wisconsin,  both  parties 
opposed  prohibition;  in  the  states  of  the  Deep  South,  however,  both 
parties  supported  prohibition.  In  Colorado,  the  Republicans  were  dry 
and  the  Democrats  wet,  while  in  Oklahoma,  the  Democrats  were  dry 
and  the  Republicans  wet.  In  Indiana,  the  Republicans  supported 
county  option,  while  the  Democrats  supported  local  option;  in  Penn- 
sylvania, both  parties  supported  license. 

Indeed,  sense  can  be  made  of  party  attitudes  towards  the  prohibi- 
tion issue  only  in  terms  of  the  split  between  city  and  country,  for  the 
states  were  divided  in  themselves.  In  Missouri,  Republican  St.  Louis 
was  more  friendly  with  Democratic  Kansas  City  over  prohibition  than 
either  was  with  the  rural  Democratic  majority;  the  part  of  Kansas 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/  91 

City  in  Kansas  itself  was  opposed  likewise  to  the  dominant  Republican 
majority  upstate.  The  refusal  of  Congress  after  the  Census  of  1910 
to  give  the  cities  more  seats  in  the  House  of  Representatives  was  a 
frank  confession  by  the  country  members  that  they  wished  to  con- 
tinue ruling  the  cities.  Reapportionment  of  seats  in  the  House  was 
postponed  until  after  the  Census  of  1930,  in  defiance  of  the  Constitu- 
tion. The  oversight  was  partially  due  to  the  pressure  of  the  dry  lobby, 
which  otherwise  made  so  much  of  the  need  to  obey  the  Constitution 
and  its  Eighteenth  Amendment. 


THREE  MOVEMENTS  helped  each  other  to  assault  certain  American  laws 
and  customs  at  the  beginning  of  the  twentieth  century.  These  move- 
ments were  the  progressive  crusade,  the  dry  crusade,  and  the  crusade 
for  female  suffrage.  After  growing  from  similar  roots  and  seeking 
similar  goals,  they  realized  their  differences  and  abandoned  each  other. 
Each  movement  would  not  have  succeeded  so  well  without  the  sup- 
port of  the  others;  but,  in  success,  each  found  itself  alone. 

The  progressive  movement  was  the  heir  of  a  long  line  of  reforms  and 
reactions.  American  reform  movements  have  usually  combined  within 
their  creeds  a  love  of  certain  remedies  for  social  ills,  allied  with  a 
hatred  of  the  presumed  makers  of  those  ills.  The  search  for  the  good 
of  society  usually  fed  off  a  loathing  of  the  chosen  scapegoats  of  the 
reformists.  Moreover,  the  nativist  movements,  such  as  the  Know-Noth- 
ing  party,  the  American  Protective  Association,  and  the  Ku  Klux  Klan 
appealed  to  those  who  wished  to  fight  for  God  by  a  call  for  an  im- 
mediate attack  on  a  named  devil.  This  militant  persecution  of  the  bad 
for  the  sake  of  the  good  was  also  an  element  of  other  rural  reform 
movements:  the  Grange,  the  Populists,  the  country  progressives,  and 
the  Non-Partisan  League.  The  very  ideology  of  crusade  was  sympa- 
thetic to  the  rural  mind. 

The  same  ideology  suited  the  temperance  reformers  and  the  woman- 
suffrage  party.  The  temperance  supporters  hated  the  saloon  and  the 
liquor  trade;  "they  did  not  pray  to  God  so  much  as  at  the  saloon- 
keeper"21 The  feminists  hated  the  unequal  position  of  women  and 
those  legislators  who  kept  it  so.  To  these  scapegoats,  the  Know-Noth- 
ing  party  added  immigrants  and  Roman  Catholics,  while  the  Grange 
and  the  Populists  damned  the  trusts  and  the  money  power  of  the  East. 
In  general,  the  evil  and  corruption  of  Washington  and  the  great  cities 
was  a  common  grievance  to  all  these  reformers.  And  the  most  obvious 
symbol  of  that  evil  and  corruption  was  the  urban  saloon,  where  immi- 
grants and  Roman  Catholics  drank  and  provided  the  bought  votes 


that  supported  the  unholy  Congresses  in  Washington.  Since  all  major 
reform  movements  believed  that  they  would  gain  the  votes  of  the 
majority  of  the  God-fearing  American  people  if  only  elections  were 
direct  and  clean,  the  assault  on  the  saloon  and  the  restoration  of 
democracy  to  American  politics  seemed  to  Know-Nothing  and  dry 
and  suffragette  to  be  the  first  step  towards  their  ultimate  victory. 

Early  elections  in  America  were  bloody  and  drunken  affairs.  William 
Dean  Howells  described  the  elections  of  1840  and  1844  in  Hamilton, 
Ohio,  in  lurid  terms:  "The  fighting  must  have  come  from  the  drinking, 
which  began  as  soon  as  the  polls  were  opened,  and  went  on  all  day 
and  night  with  a  devotion  to  principle  which  is  now  rarely  seen."22 
The  drunken  mobs  in  the  urban  and  village  saloons  were  the  dupes 
of  any  political  shyster  who  could  pay  for  their  support.  An  election 
by  such  means  offended  the  democratic  morality  of  all  reformers, 
particularly  those  of  old  American  stock,  who  had  been  brought  up  to 
believe  in  democratic  practice,  as  well  as  in  the  virtues  of  temperance 
and  the  Anglo-Saxon  race.  Thus,  the  drys  tended  to  support  political 
reformers,  and  political  reformers  tended  to  support  the  drys.  For  the 
success  of  one  against  corrupt  practices  or  saloons  seemed  to  help  the 
success  of  all,  especially  as  the  supporters  of  the  Know-Nothings  and 
of  the  early  temperance  reformers  and  the  feminists  were  found  prin- 
cipally among  the  same  Protestant  Americans  in  rural  areas.  Thus  the 
Know-Nothing  party  convention  in  1855  in  California  passed  a  resolu- 
tion approving  of  the  temperance  reforms  in  the  state  and  promising 
to  nominate  "none  for  office  but  men  of  high  character  and  known 
habits  of  temperance/*  The  Know-Nothing  domination  of  the  state 
legislature  also  resulted  in  the  passage  of  a  prohibition  referendum 
bill.23  The  supporters  of  one  crusade  could  frequently  be  induced  to 
support  another. 

Similarly,  the  early  feminists  bid  for  dry  support.  Elizabeth  Cady 
Stanton,  Susan  B.  Anthony,  Lucretia  Mott,  and  Abby  Kelly  all  spoke 
out  for  temperance  as  well  as  for  women's  rights.  Since  the  dry  move- 
ment was  led  by  clergymen  and  religious  work  was  "the  only  activity 
outside  the  home  in  which  married  women  might  take  part  without 
violating  the  proprieties,"  the  femininists  pressed  to  be  included  among 
the  dry  ranks  in  higher  positions  than  those  of  the  kneeling  women, 
who  closed  down  many  Midwestern  saloons  in  the  1870's  by  the 
humility  of  their  example.24  As  Mrs.  Stanton  confessed: 

Whenever  we  saw  an  annual  convention  of  men,  quietly  meeting 
year  after  year,  filled  with  brotherly  love,  we  bethought  ourselves 
how  we  could  throw  a  bombshell  into  their  midst,  in  the  form  of  a 
resolution  to  open  the  doors  to  the  sisters  outside.  .  .  .  In  this  way,  we 


assailed  in  turn,  the  temperance,  educational,  and  church  conventions, 
agricultural  fairs,  and  halls  of  legislation.25 

But  although  the  first  temperance  wave  of  the  1850's  aided  and  was 
aided  by  the  Know-Nothings  and  the  feminists,  the  fourth  reform 
movement  of  the  time,  the  abolition  movement,  worked  against  the 
dry  cause.  For  the  Northern  drys  supported  the  abolition  of  slavery, 
while  the  Southern  drys  did  not.  Equally,  the  feminists,  by  equating 
their  own  condition  with  those  of  the  Negro  slaves,  lost  support  in  the 
South.  Only  the  Know-Nothings  knew  enough  to  keep  silent  over 
abolition,  as  over  most  other  affairs.  But  the  combination  of  temper- 
ance, slavery,  and  f emale-suffrage  agitation  split  the  reformers  among 
themselves.  By  concentrating  on  many  reforms,  the  reformers  tended 
to  lose  that  one  reform  which  they  desired  above  all  others.  In  the 
future,  they  would  have  to  adopt  a  policy  of  selfish  co-operation, 
making  use  of  other  reform  organizations  only  to  further  their  own 
separate  cause.  As  Susan  B.  Anthony  later  wrote  to  a  friend,  after  an 
unfortunate  attempt  to  popularize  "bloomers":  "To  be  successful  a 
program  must  attempt  but  one  reform."26  She  ended  by  refusing  the 
support  of  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union  for  fear  of 
alienating  those  wets  who  supported  women's  rights. 

The  Civil  War  put  reform  at  a  discount.  Although  the  victory  of  the 
North  ended  the  divisions  of  the  reformers  over  the  question  of  aboli- 
tion, the  Know-Nothing  movement  had  subsided  even  more  quickly 
than  it  had  grown,  while  the  temperance  movement  and  the  feminists 
lost  support  in  the  lassitude  of  postwar  times.  The  1870's,  however, 
saw  the  beginning  of  a  second  temperance  and  general  reform  wave, 
for  the  evil  saloons  had  multiplied  until  there  was  one  for  every  two 
hundred  Americans.  The  Prohibition  party  offered  many  progressive 
measures  in  its  platform  and  endorsed  female  suffrage.  The  Woman's 
Christian  Temperance  Union  also  joined  the  dry  cause  to  further 
female  emancipation;  in  the  words  of  its  leader,  Frances  Willard,  the 
white  ribbon  aimed  to  promote  "prohibition,  purity,  philanthropy, 
prosperity,  and  peace."27  Both  organizations  sponsored  broad  programs 
of  social  reform  to  attract  supporters  to  their  fight  against  the  saloon. 
And  they  did  attract  additional  support.  The  Grangers  and  the  Popu- 
lists inspired  new  victories  for  temperance  in  their  bids  for  power. 
In  California,  the  Granger  triumph  of  1873  and  the  Populist  success  in 
1894  both  coincided  with  peaks  of  temperance  agitation  and  legislation 
in  the  state.28  The  labor  movement  of  the  time,  the  Knights  of  Labor, 
under  its  leader  Terence  V.  Powderly,  brought  more  help  to  the  dry 
cause,  although  this  help  was  less  in  gratitude  for  Frances  Willard's 
backing  of  labor  legislation  than  in  fear  of  the  immigrant  menace, 


marshaled  by  the  corrupt  city  bosses  through  the  saloons.  "Every 
reformatory  movement  of  the  day/'  declared  the  Journal  of  the  Knights 
of  Labor  in  1890,  "finds  here  its  most  persistent  and  indefatigable 

Thus,  at  the  beginning  of  the  twentieth  century,  those  reformers 
who  wished  to  end  certain  evils  of  government  and  of  the  liquor  trade 
and  of  discrimination  against  women  could  agree  on  many  of  their 
objectives.  Corrupt  politics  and  the  saloon  vote  was  the  enemy  of  all 
reform;  clean  politics  and  a  sober  vote  was  the  friend  of  all  reform. 
Female  suffrage  was  thought  to  mean  more  votes  for  the  dry  cause 
and  the  cause  of  good  government.  The  "superior  moral  force  of 
women"  would  save  America  from  the  saloon  and  from  the  plutocrats, 
who  were  ruining  American  institutions.30  The  staid  North  American 
Review  gave  progressive  reasons  for  endorsing  female  suffrage  in  1906 
as  a  "paramount  necessity";  the  rise  of  both  socialism  and  the  trusts 
had  made  the  voting  of  women  necessary,  as  a  means  "of  purifying  the 
ballot,  of  establishing  and  maintaining  lofty  standards  as  to  qualifica- 
tions required  of  candidates  for  public  office,  of  effecting  an  evener 
distribution  of  earnings,  of  providing  a  heavier  balance  of  disinterest- 
edness and  conservatism  against  greed  and  radicalism."81  Dry  clergy- 
men also  bid  for  progressive  support  of  prohibition  measures.  "The 
bartender  poses  as  the  dictator  of  American  destiny.  .  .  .  His  royal 
scepter  is  a  beer  faucet."32  Since  the  liquor  trade  had  corrupted  Amer- 
ican politics  to  such  a  great  extent,  it  was  the  job  of  all  good  progres- 
sives to  give  the  women  the  vote  so  that  they  could  help  the  drys  to 
abolish  the  cursed  trade  that  corrupted  all  government.  The  question 
was  simple. 

Whisky  spiders,  great  and  greedy, 

Weave  their  webs  from  sea  to  sea; 
They  grow  fat  and  men  grow  needy; 

Shall  our  robbers  rulers  6e?33 

.  The  feminists  had  special  reasons  for  helping  the  drys.  The  Prohibi- 
tion party  was  the  first  major  party  to  endorse  female  suffrage.  In 
return,  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union  had  endorsed  the 
Prohibition  party  in  1884,  after  supporting  female  suffrage  four  years 
earlier.*  It  was  due  to  the  Union  that  those  women  with  a  political 
bent  first  learned  to  organize  the  members  of  their  sex  and  apply 
pressure  upon  politicians.  The  Union  had  both  invented  and  perfected 
many  of  the  dry  lobbying  techniques  while  pushing  through  its  tem- 

.  *  After  the  death  of  Frances  Willard,  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance 
Union  adopted  the  nonpartisan  policy  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  refused 
to  endorse  the  Prohibition  party,  except  in  the  election  of  1916  when  both  major 
party  candidates  were  thought  unsatisfactory. 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/  95 

perance  education  bills.  Moreover,  the  eleven  states  which  adopted 
female  suffrage  before  1917  were  all  in  the  West;  seven  of  these 
were  prohibition  states,  and  the  other  four  had  large  areas  under  local 
option.  The  liquor  trade  was  held  to  be  the  particular  foe  of  woman- 
kind; as  the  Wisconsin  Vice  Committee  declared,  "the  chief  direct 
cause  of  the  downfall  of  women  and  girls  is  the  close  connection  be- 
tween alcoholic  drink  and  commercialized  vice/'34  A  woman's  vote 
was  thought  to  be  a  dry  vote,  and  for  that  reason,  the  liquor  trade  was 
condemned  for  opposing  the  suffragettes;  a  feminist  pamphlet,  The 
Secret  Enemy,  reprinted  a  circular  sent  out  by  the  Brewers'  and 
Wholesale  Liquor  Dealers'  Association  of  Oregon  to  every  retail  liquor 
dealer  in  the  state,  asking  him  to  get  out  twenty-five  votes  against  the 
state  woman-suffrage  amendment.  The  German-American  Alliance,  the 
chief  foe  of  the  drys,  also  opposed  the  feminists.  And  finally,  woman 
suffrage  was  intended  to  bring  about  many  of  the  same  benefits  as 
prohibition.  It  would  rid  the  cities  of  vice  and  crime  by  supporting 
reform  governments  and  would  herald  an  era  of  peace  and  prosperity. 
Even  if  Mrs.  Carrie  Chapman  Catt  thought  that  women  would  have 
been  enfranchised  two  generations  earlier  had  there  been  no  prohibi- 
tion movement,  the  success  of  the  suffragettes  increasingly  became 
dependent  on  the  help  and  fortunes  of  the  drys. 

Many  progressives  were  also  supporters  of  prohibition.  The  rural 
progressives  were  the  heirs  of  the  Populists  and  their  forerunners;  to 
them,  the  whisky  trust  was  even  more  devilish  than  the  railroad,  the 
steel,  and  the  oil  trusts.  And  the  novelty  of  the  progressive  movement, 
its  appeal  to  the  urban  middle  classes  as  well  as  to  the  rural  middle 
classes,  gave  the  crusade  against  the  saloon  an  immediate  meaning  to 
city  dwellers,  who  had  suffered  too  much  from  the  corrupt  saloon  vote. 
Moreover,  the  strengthening  of  the  federal  government  through  the 
promise  of  national  prohibition  pleased  those  supporters  of  Theodore 
Roosevelt  and  the  Progressive  party  who  demanded  a  more  highly  cen- 
tralized power  in  the  United  States.  The  dry  arguments  for  increased 
efficiency  of  administration  and  business  through  prohibition  were 
equally  seductive  to  progressives.  Although  the  Prohibition  party  justly 
claimed  its  members  were  the  "original  Progressives,"  its  eclipse  by 
the  nonpartisan  Anti-Saloon  League  made  the  Progressive  party  in- 
creasingly bid  for  dry  support  after  its  good  showing  in  the  presidential 
election  of  1912,  when  Theodore  Roosevelt,  coming  in  second  to  Wood- 
row  Wilson,  pushed  Taft  and  the  Republican  party  into  third  place. 
In  1914,  thirteen  state  Progressive  party  conventions  backed  state  pro- 
hibition, and  seventeen  Progressives  out  of  the  twenty  in  Congress 
voted  for  the  Hobson  resolution  for  national  prohibition.35  Both  the 

96   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

general  sentiment  of  progressivism  and  the  Progressive  party  itself 
were  sympathetic  to  the  dry  cause. 

Yet  the  one  factor  which  distinguished  the  progressives  and  the 
Progressive  party  from  other  American  reform  and  third-party  move- 
ments was  the  alliance  between  city  and  country  within  their  ranks. 
The  prohibition  movement,  however,  was  held  to  be  the  assault  of  the 
country  upon  the  city.  For  this  reason,  the  Progressive  party  conven- 
tion of  1916  did  not  endorse  national  prohibition,  although  it  had 
endorsed  female  suffrage  four  years  before.  The  split  among  the  pro- 
gressives on  the  question  of  prohibition  was  already  evident  in  rural 
and  urban  areas.  For  instance,  in  California,  Hiram  Johnson  and  the 
Progressive  party  rose  to  power  in  the  state  with  the  help  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  and  the  vote  of  dry  Los  Angeles;  but  although  the 
progressives  could  combine  to  fight  the  power  of  the  Southern  Pacific 
Railroad,  they  split  along  urban-rural  lines  over  the  vote  in  1911  on  a 
county  option  measure.  It  was  also  significant  that  the  thirteen  state 
conventions  of  the  Progressive  party  which  endorsed  state  prohibition 
in  1914  were  all  in  rural  or  semirural  states;  not  one  Progressive  party 
convention  in  an  industrial  state  came  out  for  prohibition.  In  the  last 
resort,  the  Progressive  party  would  only  support  the  closing  of  the 
saloons  when  it  helped  their  fight  for  clean  government,  but  not  when 
it  threatened  the  uneasy  alliance  within  the  party  between  city  and 
country.  The  Northeastern  urban  progressives  would  never  support 
total  prohibition  of  the  liquor  trade,  even  if  they  might  support  certain 
measures  against  the  saloons. 

Similarly,  the  South  presented  problems  to  the  combination  of  pro- 
gressivism, prohibition,  and  women's  rights.  White  Southerners  were 
enthusiastic  over  prohibition  for  economic  and  racial  and  moral  rea- 
sons. Progressivism,  too,  appealed  to  them  as  a  method  of  ending  the 
chronic  Southern  economic  depression  through  increased  efficiency. 
But  Southern  progressives  also  equated  clean  government  with  the 
abolition  of  the  Negro  franchise  as  well  as  the  saloons.  In  addition, 
their  veneration  for  Southern  womanhood  made  them  deny  the  female 
sex  any  political  rights.  The  Negro's  place  in  the  South  was  thought  to 
be  outside  the  polling  booth  and  the  woman's  inside  the  home.  Thus, 
although  prohibition  and  a  form  of  progressivism  was  prevalent  below 
the  Potomac,  it  excluded  all  hopes  of  increasing  the  franchise. 

In  the  election  of  1916,  however,  the  Progressive  party  returned  to 
the  Republican  fold,  and  many  progressives  voted  for  Woodrow  Wil- 
son in  disgust.  The  majority  of  the  drys  supported  the  nonpartisan 
policy  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  voting  for  those  major  party  candi- 
dates who  had  the  backing  of  the  League.  The  Woman's  party,  under 
the  leadership  of  Alice  Paul,  refused  to  back  the  Prohibition  party, 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/  97 

although  it  had  declared  for  female  suffrage.  Alice  Paul  tried  to  organ- 
ize a  protest  vote  against  President  Wilson  and  the  Democrats  in  those 
Western  states  where  women  had  the  suffrage.  For  the  Woman's 
party  was  held  to  be  "not  pro-Republican,  pro-Socialist,  pro-Prohibi- 
tion," but  "simply  pro-woman/'36  But  the  Western  campaign  against 
the  Democrats  failed.  Wilson  swept  the  Western  progressive  states. 
As  William  Allen  White  pointed  out,  the  Republican  candidate  for 
President,  Charles  Evans  Hughes,  by  refusing  to  take  a  bold  pro- 
gressive stand  on  woman  suffrage,  prohibition,  the  initiative  and 
referendum  and  recall,  seemed  to  the  right  of  Wilson  and  lost  the  votes 
of  the  reformers.37  Wilson  also  held  out  the  promise  of  peace,  which 
attracted  Western  reformers  with  their  isolationist  tendencies  and 
domestic  preoccupations. 

One  reform  movement  illustrated  particularly  well  the  common 
goals  of  the  reform  trinity  of  progressives  and  drys  and  feminists.  This 
was  the  sterilization  movement,  which  was  backed  by  the  eugenic  and 
nativist  and  paternalist  cast  of  mind  that  belonged  to  all  three  groups. 
The  confluence  of  these  attitudes  was  expressed  by  Frances  Willard  in 
England.  "I  am  first  a  Christian,  then  I  am  a  Saxon,  then  I  am  an 
American,  and  when  I  get  home  to  heaven  I  expect  to  register  from 
Evanston."38*  To  her  and  to  other  reformers,  the  reasons  for  all  reform 
were  the  duties  owed  to  God  and  race  and  nation  in  that  order,  while 
the  place  of  the  reformer's  activity  gave  him  his  particular  opportu- 
nities. The  Anglo-Saxon  race  was  held  to  have  a  divine  and  national 
mission  to  preserve  the  purity  of  the  old  American  stock,  which  would 
support  progressive  reforms  and  abolish  the  racial  degeneracy  caused 
by  alcohol.  "We  are  going  to  have  purer  blood  as  the  poison  of  alcohol 
becomes  eliminated/'  said  William  Jennings  Bryan.  "We  are  going  to 
have  a  stronger  race  because  of  prohibition."39  This  concern  with  the 
future  of  their  children  was  a  strong  incentive  for  the  Woman's  party 
to  give  support  to  the  drys.  The  legend  on  the  banner  of  a  suffragette 
procession  in  Chicago  put  the  matter  clearly: 

For  the  safety  of  the  nation,  let  the  women  have  the  vote, 
For  the  hand  that  rocks  the  cradle  will  never  rock  the  boat*0 

Eugenics  and  the  sterilization  of  the  defective  and  the  degenerate 
provided  a  good  common  ground  for  reformers  for  additional  reasons. 
Sterilization  promised  to  abolish  the  criminal  type  in  society  before 
he  was  corrupted  further  by  urban  slums  or  saloons.  It  also  offered  a 
method  of  controlled  breeding  which  would  favor  the  reproduction 
of  the  Anglo-Saxon  race  and  prevent  the  reproduction  of  its  rivals.  The 

*The  home  of  Frances  Willard  in  Evanston,  Illinois,  is  the  present  head- 
quarters of  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union. 


biological  laws  of  necessity,  upon  which  the  position  of  the  eugenic 
reformers  rested,  also  justified  the  position  of  the  rich  and  the  middle 
classes  of  America;  for,  by  their  very  position  in  society,  they  had 
proved  that  they  were  the  fittest  to  survive.  Moreover,  eugenic  steri- 
lization promised  to  reduce  taxation  on  the  wealthy  by  diminishing 
the  number  of  hereditary  criminals  in  the  prisons  and  poorhouses  of 
the  United  States,  It  was  not  surprising  that  sterilization,  along  with 
progressivism  and  prohibition  and  feminism,  was  supported  by  those 
whom  a  Wisconsin  clergyman  called  "our  best  people/'41 

By  1922,  fifteen  states  in  America  had  sterilization  laws.  Of  these 
states,  ten  had  passed  state  prohibition  laws  before  the  ratification 
of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  and  eight  had  allowed  woman  suffrage 
before  the  ratification  of  the  Nineteenth  Amendment.  Twelve  of  these 
states  were  Western  or  Midwestern,  and  three  were  Northeastern;  none 
were  Southern.  This  geographical  proportion  of  support  for  steriliza- 
tion gives  a  fair  idea  of  the  geographical  support  for  the  Progressive 
party  and  the  Woman's  party,  even  if  the  Southern  support  of  prohibi- 
tion excluded  support  of  its  allied  causes.  Although  the  motives  for 
passing  sterilization  laws  varied  from  a  "purely  punitive"  motive  in 
Nevada  to  a  "purely  eugenic"  motive  in  Washington,  the  reasons  for 
the  eugenic  crusade  appealed  to  the  vast  majority  of  American-born 
Protestants,  whatever  their  geographical  location.  The  rural  pro- 
gressive, the  prohibitionist,  and  the  feminist  seemed  to  hear  their 
own  voices  in  the  accusation  of  Chief  Justice  Harry  Olson,  of  the 
Chicago  Municipal  Court.  European  governments  had  made  of  the 
United  States  "an  asylum  and  dumping  ground  for  their  own  vaga- 
bond, drunken,  degenerate,  feebleminded,  dementia  praecox,  epileptic, 
and  criminalistic  classes."42  By  sterilization  and  prohibition  and  politi- 
cal reform  and  women's  rights,  a  beginning  might  be  made  in  preserv- 
ing the  old  virtues  of  the  American  race  from  the  corrupt  immigrant 
flood  that  deluged  the  cities  of  the  United  States.  Indeed,  the  Eight- 
eenth Amendment  seemed  the  final  legacy  of  twenty  years  of  struggle, 
the  last  testament  of  such  reformers  as  Harry  Carey  Goodhue,  of 
Spoon  River. 

Do  you  remember  when  I  fought 

The  bank  and  the  courthouse  ring, 

For  pocketing  the  interest  on  public  funds? 

And  when  I  fought  our  leading  citizens 

For  making  the  poor  the  pack-horses  of  the  taxes? 

And  when  I  fought  the  water  works 

For  stealing  streets  and  raising  rates? 

And  when  I  fought  the  business  men 

Who  fought  me  in  these  fights? 


Then  do  you  remember: 

That  staggering  up  from  the  wreck  of  defeat, 

And  the  wreck  of  a  ruined  career, 

I  slipped  from  my  cloak  my  last  ideal 

Hidden  from  all  eyes  until  thent 

Like  the  cherished  jawbone  of  an  ass, 

And  smote  the  bank  and  the  water  works, 

And  the  business  men  with  prohibition, 

And  made  Spoon  River  pay  the  cost 

Of  the  fights  that  I  had  lost?** 


FREDERICK  JACKSON  TURNER,  in  his  famous  essay  on  the  American 
frontier,  saw  his  society  as  a  democracy  of  expectant  capitalists.  The 
American  dream  was  liberty  for  all  to  live  as  they  would  and  get  what 
they  could.  He  did  not  foresee  that  the  getting  of  billions  of  dollars 
by  the  few  might  prevent  the  getting  of  hundreds  of  dollars  by  the 
many,  and  that  the  living  in  luxury  by  the  few  could  ensure  the  living 
in  poverty  of  the  many.  The  great  industrial  fortunes  of  America  were 
built  on  die  sweated  labor  of  the  men  and  women  and  children  of  the 
immigrant  masses  in  the  cities.  The  twelve-hour  day,  seven  days  a 
week,  which  was  usual  in  the  American  steel  industry  until  the 
twenties,  built  vast  corporations  on  the  early  deaths  of  many  men. 
It  also  drove  the  laborers  to  drink  and  to  the  saloons,  for  the  shortest 
way  out  of  Pittsburgh  or  Birmingham  was  a  bottle  of  booze. 

Much  of  the  heavy  drinking  in  the  industrial  slums  was  caused  by 
the  long  hours  and  foul  conditions  of  mills  and  factories.  Yet,  in  turn, 
the  heavy  drinking  increased  the  foulness  of  the  conditions  of  existence 
for  workingmen.  It  led  to  more  industrial  accidents  and  less  output 
from  the  factories.  Therefore,  the  employers  and  manufacturers,  after 
creating  a  slum  hell  from  which  alcohol  was  the  only  release,  tried  to 
block  up  the  sole  means  of  escape  in  the  interests  of  efficiency  and 
output.  Only  they  did  not  talk  of  efficiency  and  output  except  among 
themselves.  To  the  workingmen,  they  talked  of  morality  and  concern 
for  the  welfare  of  the  poor. 

The  saloons  threatened  the  manufacturers  of  America  in  many  ways. 
Drunkards  at  work  and  inefficient  labor  on  Blue  Mondays  cut  down 
production.  As  one  employer  testified  before  a  committee  of  the  North 
Carolina  legislature,  "Gentlemen,  there  is  a  liquor  shop,  a  dispensary, 
two  miles  from  Selma,  and  you  must  shut  up  that  place  or  I  must  $hut 
up  my  cotton  mill.  It  is  for  you  to  say  which  you  will  encourage  in 
North  Carolina,  liquor  mills  or  cotton  mills  —  the  two  cannot  go  to- 
gether."44 Another  industrialist,  Lewis  Edwin  Theiss,  wrote,  "Until 

100   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

booze  is  banished  we  can  never  have  really  efficient  workmen.  We  are 
not  much  interested  in  the  moral  side  of  the  matter  as  such.  It  is  purely 
a  question  of  dollars  and  cents.''45  It  was  also  the  concern  of  the 
manufacturers  to  eliminate  the  saloon  in  order  to  secure  more  of  the 
workers'  pay  for  the  purchase  of  their  manufactured  goods.  As  a 
Californian  businessman  wrote,  "Leaving  aside  any  moral  or  social 
aspect,  the  question  of  commercial  benefits  .  .  .  makes  it  mighty  good 
business  to  put  the  saloons  on  the  toboggan."46  Prohibition  would 
replace  the  demand  for  liquor  with  a  demand  for  dry  goods.  "Canny, 
shrewd,  business-like  America  knew  that  it  would  be  a  good  financial 

There  was  also  hostility  to  the  labor  movement  in  the  employers' 
support  of  prohibition.  The  suppression  of  the  saloons  would  hurt  the 
labor  unions,  which  often  used  the  saloons  to  organize  workingmen. 
Moreover,  if  the  liquor  bill  of  the  worker  were  eliminated,  then  he 
would  have  a  greater  spending  power  without  a  rise  in  wages.  As 
Frances  Willard  said  in  1886,  the  aim  of  labor  should  not  be  to  get 
higher  wages,  but  to  turn  present  wages  to  better  account.48  In  addi- 
tion, there  was  a  real  fear  on  the  part  of  respectable  people  in  the 
nineteenth  century  that  they  would  be  insulted  and  injured  by  drunken 
individuals  or  mobs.  Liquor  encouraged  crimes  of  violence  in  those 
who  had  criminal  tendencies.  There  was  even  the  possibility  of  a  so- 
cial revolution,  if  demogogues  or  radicals  exploited  the  "drink-sodden, 
muddled  and  fuddled  proletariat."49 

The  new  technology  further  helped  the  drys.  The  excitement  of 
invention  and  machinery  created  its  own  rationale.  The  industrial  leap 
forward  demanded  the  continuous  sobriety  and  concentration  of  the 
workers.  Many  industries,  particularly  the  railroad  and  steel  com- 
panies, forbade  their  workers  to  drink.  A  typical  poster  in  a  plant 
MAN  WHO  DRINKS.  The  powerful  railroad  brotherhoods  supported 
the  employers  in  the  matter  of  prohibition.  One  observer  exulted, 
"John  Barleycorn  has  been  caught  in  the  fast  revolving  machinery  of 
American  industry.  There  is  no  hope  for  him!"50  Prohibition  had  be- 
come a  necessity  for  the  life  of  the  nation.  "This  dry  thing  which  has 
overtaken  the  United  States  is  by  no  means  suddener  than  the  steam- 
boat, the  telegraph,  and  the  automobile.  Because  they  are,  it  is;  it  is 
their  logical  and  essential  consequence  and  condition."51 

There  was  the  further  matter  of  taxes.  Dry  propaganda  stressed  over 
and  over  again  that  the  middle  classes  of  America  were  paying  high 
rates  and  taxes  for  the  upkeep  of  the  jails,  almshouses,  asylums,  and 
charity  organizations,  where  the  victims  of  drink  ended  their  unhappy 
lives.  If  the  liquor  evil  were  to  be  prohibited,  there  would  be  no  need 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM   /   101 

for  any  more  penal  institutions.  The  result  would  be  a  lowering  of 
taxes.  America  would  be  a  land  of  silk  and  money  for  all.  The  drys 
did  not  mention,  however,  the  sore  point  of  the  federal  and  state 
liquor  tax,  which  provided  a  large  part  of  the  income  of  the  govern- 
ment. The  tax  was,  in  a  leading  prohibitionist's  words, 

.  .  .  perhaps  the  most  far-reaching  and  calamitous  in  its  ultimate  ef- 
fect of  any  action  ever  taken  by  Congress.  It  made  the  Government 
financially  interested  in  the  perpetuation  of  the  liquor  traffic.  It  stimu- 
lated the  organization  and  growth  of  the  traffic  and  thereafter  made  it 
impossible  to  deal  with  the  liquor  question  upon  its  merits,  disas- 
sociated from  the  question  of  revenue.  It  served  to  entrench  the  liquor 
traffic  in  politics  and  government  from  which  it  proved  impossible  to 
dislodge  it  for  over  half  a  century.52 

The  tax  was  first  levied  in  the  Civil  War;  but  its  duties  were  lowered 
after  the  war,  owing  to  the  pressure  of  the  liquor  trade.  The  rates 
were  soon  raised,  however,  and  raised  again  and  again,  to  pay  for  the 
war  in  Cuba  and  the  First  World  War.  Between  1870  and  1915,  the 
liquor  tax  provided  between  one-half  and  two-thirds  of  the  whole 
internal  revenue  of  the  United  States,  providing  some  two  hundred 
million  dollars  annually  after  the  turn  of  the  century.  But  with  the 
introduction  of  the  federal  income  tax  by  the  Sixteenth  Amendment, 
the  Eighteenth  Amendment  became  possible.  Income  and  excess-prof- 
its taxes  provided  the  vast  bulk  of  the  federal  revenue  in  the  five 
years  before  1920,  two-thirds  of  a  total  swollen  by  the  demands  of  war 
to  eight  times  the  total  needed  in  the  previous  five  years.  The  new 
size  of  the  federal  budget  had  made  the  liquor  tax  less  important  to 
the  government,  although  the  wealthy  people  of  America  began  to 
realize  for  the  first  time  that  the  loss  of  the  liquor  tax  would  be  made 
up  by  higher  taxes  on  themselves. 

Yet  the  question  of  the  liquor  tax  seemed  trifling  when  the  drys 
promised  such  huge  economic  gains  to  industry  and  incomes  with  the 
coming  of  national  prohibition.  To  the  drys,  the  economics  of  the  matter 
were  simple.  The  consumers  of  drink  and  the  liquor  trade  were  a  dead 
loss.  "It  would  be  a  saving  to  the  Nation/'  wrote  one  prohibitionist  in 
1908,  "if  we  could  kill  off  all  its  hard  drinkers  tomorrow.  There  are 
two  and  one-half  millions  of  these,  and  their  first  cost,  at  twenty-one 
years  of  age,  was  at  least  FIVE  BILLIONS  OF  DOLLARS  —  as  much  as  the 
estimated  value  of  all  the  slaves  in  this  country  before  the  war." 
According  to  this  dry,  it  was  a  "natural  law"  in  the  human  world  that 
every  man  should  pay  his  way  through  life.  He  should  put  back  into 
society  by  steady  toil  the  amount  of  money  invested  in  his  upbring- 
ing.53 Liquor  was  a  stumbling  block  in  the  way  of  honoring  this  debt 

102   /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

of  existence.  Each  drink  taken  by  each  man  was  another  fetter  on  the 
feet  of  the  progress  of  all.  Both  the  making  of  liquor  and  its  consump- 
tion chalked  up  deficits  in  the  national  economy.  The  great  liberal 
economist  Adam  Smith  had  himself  written: 

All  the  labour  expended  producing  strong  drink  is  utterly  unpro- 
ductive; it  adds  nothing  to  the  wealth  of  the  community.  A  wise  man 
works  and  earns  wages,  and  spends  his  wages  so  that  he  may  work 
again.  Employers,  taken  all  around,  do  not  pay  more  wages  to  total 
abstainers,  but  the  latter  contribute  more  to  their  own  and  fellow 
workers'  wages  fund  than  do  the  drinkers.54 

This  traditional  view  of  economics,  which  equated  the  service  trades 
and  pleasures  of  society  with  waste,  and  which  thought  in  terms  of  a 
limited  "wages  fund"  only  benefited  by  "productive"  labor,  could  see 
only  virtue  in  prohibition.  If  the  laboring  poor  were  prevented  from 
buying  liquor,  they  would  purchase  more  dry  goods.  The  Committee 
of  Fifty  quoted  the  statistics  of  charity  organizations  to  show  that  one 
in  four  cases  of  destitution  was  directly  or  indirectly  due  to  liquor.55 
Although,  as  the  Buffalo  Charity  Organization  pointed  out,  "Innocent 
poverty  with  a  long  working  day  and  insufficient  food  leads  to  drink 
just  as  much  as  drink  causes  poverty,"  prohibition  was  one  way  of 
breaking  out  of  this  "vicious  circle."56  The  increased  consumer  market 
in  a  dry  America  would  lead  to  increased  production,  which  would 
lead  in  turn  to  higher  wages  and  more  jobs.  The  whole  concept  was 
one  of  an  ascending  spiral  to  perfection  on  earth,  with  poverty,  jails, 
~  dmshouses,  pauper  hospitals  and  taxes  on  the  middle  classes  abolished 
forever.  Moreover,  for  the  first  time,  prohibition  would  bring  real 
liberty  to  all  Americans  by  bringing  them  prosperity.  For,  as  a  dry 
apologist  stressed,  real  liberty  lay  in  the  creation  and  distribution  of 
wealth.  "A  poor  man  never  can  be  free.  And  hence  that  which  may  be 
labeled  liberty  is  not  worth  anything  if  it  makes  for  poverty."57 

There  was  much  truth  in  the  claims  of  the  drys.  Judged  in  terms  of 
pure  economics,  the  efficient  prohibition  of  liquor  would  bring  bene- 
fits to  a  society.  Unfortunately,  liquor  cannot  be  efficiently  prohibited 
in  a  democracy,  and  man,  whatever  the  liberal  economists  may  have 
believed,  is  not  an  economic  animal.  Thus,  the  theory  of  economics 
favored  the  dry  position,  while  the  facts  of  enforcement  and  of  the 
nature  of  mankind  favored  the  wets.  Yet  neither  side  would  concede 
victory  to  the  other  on  any  ground. 

These  economic  reasons  for  prohibition  made  many  of  the  manu- 
facturers of  the  United  States  support  the  drys,  who  wanted  prohibition 
for  moral  reasons.  The  Villager  commented,  'It  was  the  industrial 
movement  which  made  use  of  the  moral  movement,  and  so  achieved 

THE    POLITICS    OF    REFORM/   103 

the  Eighteenth  Amendment/'58  The  employers  had  two  advantages  to 
gain  from  their  alliance  with  the  drys.  The  first  was  the  diversion  of 
the  reform  element  in  society  into  an  attack  on  the  saloons  rather  than 
the  trusts.  The  era  of  the  muckrakers,  which  had  attacked  political 
bosses  and  corporations  and  stock  manipulation  and  capitalism  itself, 
was  superseded  by  the  prohibition  era,  in  which  the  energies  of  re- 
formers were  devoted  to  remedies  for  the  liquor  evil  rather  than  for 
economic  evils.  Prohibition  became  a  sort  of  moral  mask  for  big  busi- 

The  support  of  the  drys  was  helpful  to  big  business  in  a  second  way. 
In  1909,  Purley  A.  Baker  called  the  labor  movement  "fundamentally  a 
Holy  crusade  ...  a  struggle  toward  light  and  justice  and  a  square 
deal/'  It  sought  to  "correct  a  great  wrong/'59  This  possible  coalition 
between  the  prohibition  and  the  labor  movements  might  be  dangerous 
to  capital.  But  once  the  drys  saw  clearly  that  they  had  the  widespread 
support  of  business  and  the  widespread  opposition  of  labor  over  light 
wines  and  beer,  then  they  were  quick  to  sing  the  virtues  of  their 
backers.  The  business  ethic  of  the  virtues  of  work  and  efficiency  and 
wealth  was,  anyway,  similar  to  the  dry  ethic;  it  stemmed  from  the 
same  Puritan  roots.  Indeed,  before  national  prohibition  became  the 
law  of  the  land,  many  drys  supported  the  manufacturers  in  keeping 
down  the  wages  of  their  workers,  for  they  thought  that  higher  wages 
would  only  be  spent  on  more  drink.  As  the  National  Temperance 
Almanac  declared,  "If  this  body  and  soul  destroying  malady  is  not 
arrested  in  its  progress,  it  is  but  a  small  thing  to  say  that  the  in- 
creased wages  and  increased  leisure  of  the  working-classes  would  be  a 
curse  and  not  a  blessing."60 

There  was  an  additional  moral  reason  for  the  support  of  the  drys  by 
the  large  industrialists.  Prohibition  was  a  partial  salve  to  the  con- 
science of  the  rich.  The  wealthy  people  of  the  United  States  could 
never  justify  themselves  by  European  pleas  of  good  birth  or  the 
divine  right  of  inheritance.  The  American  Dives  had  to  find  a  better 
excuse.  Thus  he  usually  claimed  that  his  riches  had  been  acquired 
through  the  will  of  God,  whose  methods  of  distribution  were  in- 
scrutable. But  with  these  riches  God  had  also  conferred  on  him  the 
duty  of  looking  after  the  poor.  Although  the  fittest  rightly  ruled  by  the 
sanction  of  Darwin  and  the  Almighty,  they  should  be  conscious  of 
their  obligations  towards  the  less  fortunate. 

Prohibition  was  a  marvelous  cause  in  its  appeal  to  the  paternalism 
of  the  rich  and  the  powerful.  While  the  suppression  of  the  saloon  made 
little  difference  to  the  recreations  of  the  rulers,  it  did  seem  to  them  to 
remove  temptation  from  the  poor  and  needy.  The  governors  of  society 
knew  enough  to  work  and  drink;  the  governed  only  knew  enough  to 


work.  This  attitude  offended  the  workers,  for  "the  laboring  man,  like 
other  men,  objects  to  being  treated  like  a  child  or  a  machine/'81  It  also 
seemed  paradoxical  that  the  government  should  apply  laissez-faire 
principles  to  business  and  paternalism  to  individual  habits.  The  para- 
dox would  be  more  acceptable  if  reversed,  so  that  there  was  "a  little 
more  regulation  of  business  and  a  little  less  regulation  of  personal 

The  labor  movement  itself  was  divided  in  its  attitude  toward  pro- 
hibition. Traditionally,  workingmen  were  drinkers.  In  the  nineteenth 
century,  up  to  one-third  of  their  wages  had  been  paid  in  whisky, 
while  their  dinner  pails  were  more  often  full  of  beer  than  soup.  But  the 
increasing  demands  of  the  industrial  revolution  on  labor,  coupled  with 
the  urgent  need  to  organize  strong  unions  and  improve  working  condi- 
tions, made  many  of  the  labor  leaders  openly  or  secretly  support  the 
prohibition  of  liquor.  The  Seamen's  Journal  stated  bluntly:  "Whisky 
is  a  most  valuable  friend  of  capitalism/*  Those  who  drank  it  were 
enemies  of  their  class.68  But  this  was  only  whisky.  For  the  workers 
themselves  demanded  their  beer  and  wine  as  a  right,  and  thus  their 
leaders  had  to  support  their  demand.  Therefore,  while  a  majority  of 
the  labor  leaders  opposed  the  saloon,  they  also  backed  the  sale  of  beer 
and  light  wines.  It  was  in  the  failure  of  the  drys  to  differentiate  be- 
tween these  two  attitudes,  and  the  failure  of  the  labor  leaders  them- 
selves to  make  their  position  clear,  that  the  misunderstanding  about 
the  backing  of  labor  for  prohibition  arose. 

In  the  days  before  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  the  union  leaders 
were  swayed  by  many  of  the  eugenic  arguments  that  also  swayed  the 
middle-class  reformers.  They  listened  to  the  savage  speeches  of  such 
men  as  Father  Cassidy,  who  maintained  that  "the  saloon  lusteth 
against  Labor  and  Labor  lusteth  against  the  saloon  'and  these  are 
contrary  one  to  the  other/  "  Father  Cassidy  denounced  the  wet  votes 
of  the  workers  as  a  deliberate  attack  on  the  future  hopes  of  their 
young  ones  by  making  them  victims  to  "this  cursed  thing  which  has 
stunted  more  growing  intellects,  robbed  more  children  of  their  birth- 
right, sent  stupid  through  the  world,  tied  to  the  warper,  the  spooler 
and  the  spinning-frame  more  half -grown,  half -developed  little  ones 
than  unionism  can  ever  count/'64  A  poll  of  more  than  five  hundred 
labor  leaders  taken  by  the  Literary  Digest  in  1920  discovered  that  two 
out  of  three  privately  thought  that  prohibition  was  a  benefit  to  the 
workingman,  whether  he  liked  it  or  not. 

There  was  also  a  genuine  co-operation  between  the  moderate  drys, 
who  were  interested  in  social  reform  in  general,  and  the  leaders  of 
labor.  Such  reformers  as  Frances  Willard  and  Jane  Addams  recognized 
that  poverty  caused  alcoholism  as  much  as  alcoholism  caused  poverty. 

THE    POLITICS     OF    REFORM/   105 

The  answer  to  the  saloon  was  to  shorten  hours  of  work  and  raise 
wages,  for,  as  Charles  Stelzle  pointed  out,  the  best-paid  workers  with 
the  most  leisure  time  spent  least  in  the  saloons.65  The  leader  of  the 
social  gospel  movement,  Walter  Rauschenbusch,  thought  that  liquor 
was  an  instrument  of  the  Mammon  of  Big  Business  and  urged  the 
labor  unions  to  break  away  from  the  liquor  trade  if  they  wanted 
strength  and  higher  wages.66  Drink  and  low  wages  were  inseparably 
connected.  As  one  dry  social  worker  said,  'low  wages  played  directly 
into  the  hands  of  the  saloon-keeper.  The  lower  the  wage  the  hungrier 
the  man  or  girl,  and  more  certainly  the  saloon  with  its  stimulants 
called."67  Her  view  was  confirmed  by  another  convinced  prohibitionist. 
"Terrible  heat,  inhumanly  long  hours  and  night  work  gave  controlling 
power  to  the  craving  for  stimulants."68  Industrial  drinking  among  the 
workers  was  the  direct  consequence  of  their  beastly  living  conditions. 
The  misery  caused  by  drinking  in  the  urban  slums  was  a  blatant 
fact.  The  prohibition  of  the  saloon  seemed  one  way  to  combat  this  evil. 
The  manufacturers  and  the  middle  classes  had  many  selfish  financial 
and  social  reasons  for  supporting  the  campaign  against  the  saloons. 
The  labor  movement  itself  had  reason  to  dislike  the  influence  of  the 
liquor  trade,  although  it  stressed  the  fact  that  bad  conditions  forced 
the  workmen  of  America  to  drink.  The  reformers  of  the  time  pressed 
both  for  better  conditions  and  for  the  abolition  of  the  saloons.  If  the 
supporters  of  the  dry  movement  were  more  concerned  with  attacking 
King  Alcohol  than  Mammon,  it  was  because  their  energies  could  only 
be  turned  in  one  direction,  and  because  Mammon  backed  their  cause. 

Although  the  Anti-Saloon  League  had  powerful  backing  among  re- 
form and  economic,  groups  in  the  United  States  at  the  beginning  of  the 
century,  it  had  to  translate  this  support  into  blocks  of  votes  for  its 
political  friends  on  election  day.  Without  an  organized  voting  group 
behind  it,  the  League  would  not  have  been  able  to  apply  political 
pressure  on  the  legislatures  of  the  states  and  on  Congress.  With  the 
menace  of  thousands  of  votes  cast  at  the  next  election  against  any 
legislator  who  dared  to  vote  against  a  dry  measure,  the  League  could 
make  the  representatives  of  the  people  vote  against  their  personal  wet 
convictions.  The  job  of  the  organized  drys  was  to  perfect  their  means 
of  persuasion.  To  this  end,  they  invented  new  political  techniques  and 
also  used  the  methods  of  the  brewers  and  distillers  but  "deodorized 
and  disinfected  them  and  turned  them  back  on  the  liquor  traffic."60 


Creeping  Barrage 

The  mind  has  shown  itself  at  times 
Too  much  the  baked  and  labeled  dough 
Divided  by  accepted  multitudes. 


Many  a  bum  show  is  saved  by  the  American  flag. 
Impresario  GEORGE  M.  COHAN 

PROPAGANDA  IS  concerned  with  belief  rather  than  truth,  with  dis- 
tortion rather  than  presentation,  with  influence  rather  than  argu- 
ment. The  matter  of  propaganda  is  less  important  than  its  methods 
and  its  foes.  If  a  group  is  alone  in  its  field  and  presents  its  objectives 
with  persuasion  and  without  contradiction,  it  will  usually  gain  those 
objectives.  But  if  its  propaganda  is  denied  by  a  hostile  group  with 
opposite  goals,  its  success  will  largely  depend  on  its  control  of  the 
available  means  of  communication.  The  drys,  at  the  beginning  of 
prohibition,  had  the  better  of  the  struggle  for  the  communications 
system  of  the  United  States.  A  world  war  briefly  gave  them  absolute 
power  over  likely  methods  of  influencing  others;  but  an  economic  and 
technological  and  moral  revolution,  allied  with  a  boom  followed  by  a 
depression,  put  the  mass  media  in  the  hands  of  their  enemies.  The 
birth  of  prohibition  was  in  the  days  of  local  news  and  self-contained 
areas;  the  flowering  of  prohibition  took  place  when  a  national  war 
effort  put  a  centralized  control  over  America  for  the  first  time;  the 
dying  of  prohibition  lay  in  the  new  machines  which  carried  the  pre- 
sumed manners  of  the  urban  rich  into  every  backwater  and  share- 
cropper's shack.  Propaganda  was  the  Frankenstein  of  the  drys.  At  first, 
it  was  their  power  and  glory;  but,  at  the  last,  it  murdered  its  maker. 
The  drys  held  a  monopoly  of  the  good  side  in  the  fields  of  science, 
education,  medicine,  evangelical  religion,  progressivism,  and  eco- 
nomics. But  they  made  further  claims  for  prohibition  in  terms  of 
history,  tradition,  and  patriotism.  While  their  claims  were  little  dis- 
puted in  the  beginning,  a  growing  body  of  wet  protests  and  counter- 



claims,  equally  biased  and  injudicious,  grew  up  and  eventually 
swamped  the  prohibitionists  under  a  deluge  of  answers.  The  myth  of 
dry  virtues  was  countered  by  the  myth  of  wet  rights,  and  only  the 
believers  in  temperance  suffered.  As  Mencken  moaned,  "To  one  side, 
the  professional  gladiators  of  Prohibition;  to  the  other  side,  the  agents 
of  the  brewers  and  distillers."  He  then  asked  himself  why  all  neutral 
and  clear-headed  men  avoided  the  liquor  question,  and  came  to  the 
conclusion  that  "no  genuinely  intelligent  man  believes  the  thing  is 
soluble  at  all."1  He  was  right.  Once  the  liquor  question  was  seen  in 
terms  of  a  choice  between  the  prohibitionists  and  the  liquor  trade,  few 
reasonable  men  wished  to  choose  at  all. 


BIG  BUSINESS  began  the  practice  of  lobbying  in  America,  but  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  perfected  the  techniques.  While  the  corporations  used 
the  greed  of  legislators,  the  League  used  their  fear  of  losing  elections. 
Bribery  may  have  been  an  effective  instrument  for  controlling  some 
representatives  of  the  people,  but  loss  of  a  majority  of  the  popular 
vote  was  a  sufficient  threat  to  control  all.  It  is  a  flaw  in  democracy  that 
it  can  allow  those  pressures  which,  by  influencing  the  democratic 
process  unduly,  pervert  democracy.2 

The  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union  developed  most  of  the 
methods  of  legislative  pressure  later  used  by  the  Anti-Saloon  League. 
The  methods  were  discovered  by  the  formidable  lobbyist  of  temper- 
ance teaching,  Mrs.  Mary  H.  Hunt.  In  an  address  in  1897,  she  outlined 
the  means  which  she  had  used  in  the  preceding  years: 

The  people  are  the  real  source  of  power.  They  must  be  the  lobby. 
There  the  first  step  for  compulsory  temperance  education  should  be 
taken  before  the  primary  meetings  are  held  for  the  nomination  of 
legislators,  by  agitating  through  pulpit,  platform,  press  and  prayer- 
meeting  for  the  choice  of  temperance  men  as  legislators.  After  these 
are  elected,  before  the  legislature  convenes,  appeal  to  their  constitu- 
ents in  like  manner  to  instruct  these  law-makers  to  vote  for  temperance 
education  in  public  schools.  This  should  be  so  universally  and  system- 
atically done  that  every  legislator  will  feel  this  pressure  before  he 
leaves  his  constituents.3 

An  example  of  Mrs.  Hunt's  practice  has  been  preserved  in  an  ac- 
count of  the  passing  of  a  temperance  education  bill  through  the 
Pennsylvania  legislature  in  1885.  For  the  previous  eighteen  months, 
Mrs.  Hunt  had  been  preparing  the  way  by  buttonholing  representa- 
tives, addressing  meetings,  preparing  material  for  newspapers,  and 
organizing  petitions.  At  the  opening  of  the  legislative  session,  the 


galleries  were  packed  with  members  of  the  Woman's  Christian  Tem- 
perance Union. 

Almost  before  the  amen  to  the  opening  prayer  had  been  uttered,  a 
dozen  members  were  on  their  feet  offering  the  petitions  sent  in  from 
their  various  districts,  on  behalf  of  the  bill  for  scientific  temperance 
education.  The  dozen  swelled  to  scores,  and  the  scores  multiplied  all 
in  a  moment  until  so  many  boy  messengers  were  flying  down  the  aisles 
with  the  papers,  and  so  many  arms  were  waving  in  the  air,  that  from 
every  seat  there  seemed  suddenly  to  have  sprung  a  great  fluttering 
white  blossom  of  petition. 

And  the  women  did  not  stop  with  petitions,  "but  they  bombarded  the 
hearts  and  heads  of  their  representatives  with  letters;  letters  admoni- 
tory and  beseeching,  letters  solemn  and  warning,  letters  proper  and 
patronizing,  letters  of  all  sorts,  shapes,  sizes  and  degrees  of  eloquence, 
but  all  pregnant  with  one  mighty  purpose,  the  ultimate  passage  of 
the  bill."4 

The  dry  women  also  made  use  of  another  great  weapon,  the  chil- 
dren. Newborn  infants  had  a  white  ribbon  tied  around  their  wrists 
and  a  prayer  said  over  them;  they  were  then  official  members  of  the 
dry  Cradle  Roll.  Loyal  Temperance  and  Lincoln-Lee  Legions  of  chil- 
dren, more  powerful  than  the  massed  youth  of  the  Children's  Crusade, 
were  set  to  march  and  sing  about  the  polling  booths  when  local  or 
county  option  elections  were  held.  As  the  known  wets  approached  the 
polling  booths, 

.  .  .  the  church  women  of  the  town,  bent  like  huntresses  above  the 
straining  leash,  gave  the  word  to  the  eager  children  of  the  Sunday 
schools.  Dressed  all  in  white,  and  clutching  firmly  in  their  small  hands 
the  tiny  stems  of  American  flags,  the  pigmies,  monstrous  as  only  chil- 
dren can  be  when  they  become  the  witless  mouths  of  slogans  and 
crusades,  charged  hungrily,  uttering  their  shrill  cries,  upon  their 

"There  he  is,  children.  Go  get  him." 

Swirling  around  the  marked  man  in  a  wild  elves'  dance,  they  sang 
with  piping  empty  violence: 

We  are  some  fond  mother's  treasure 

Men  and  women  of  tomorrow, 
For  a  moment's  empty  pleasure 

Would  you  give  us  lifelong  sorrow? 

Think  of  sisters,  wives,  and  mothers, 

Of  helpless  babes  in  some  low  slum, 
Think  not  of  yourself,  but  others, 

Vote  against  the  Demon  Rum.5 


William  Jennings  Bryan  noticed  the  effectiveness  o£  this  form  of 
pressure  during  his  own  speaking  tours. 

At  county  seats  all  the  children  in  the  county  would  be  in  line,  thou- 
sands of  them,  the  girls  in  white  with  gay  sashes,  each  child  carrying 
a  flag,  and  marching  proudly  with  their  banners.  "When  we  can  vote, 
the  saloon  will  go."  "Aren't  we  worth  protecting?"  etc.  A  most  impres- 
sive sight  and  the  work  of  women.  Women  are  largely  responsible  for 
national  prohibition,  which  was  secured  without  equal  suffrage.6 

Moreover,  the  women  knew  that  the  children  would  exert  a  more 
devastating  pressure  in  the  future  than  in  the  present.  In  1920,  Anna 
Gordon,  who  became  President  of  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance 
Union  after  the  death  of  Frances  Willard,  claimed  that  the  Union's 
work  among  the  children  should  bear  much  of  the  credit  for  the  pas- 
sage of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment. 

"Tremble,  King  Alcohol,  we  shall  grow  up,"  shouted  the  children, 
and  in  spirited  fashion  they  sang,  "We'll  purify  the  ballot  box,  we'll 
consecrate  the  ballot  box,  well  elevate  the  ballot  box  when  we  are 
twenty-one."  In  State  and  National  Prohibition  campaigns,  as  Young 
Campaigners  for  Prohibition,  in  patriotic  regalia,  with  pennants  flying 
and  appealing,  significant  banners  held  aloft,  the  boys  and  girls  proph- 
esied the  downfall  of  the  trade  that  with  its  cruel  heel  dared  "stifle 
down  the  beating  of  a  child's  heart."  The  cry  of  the  children  has  been 
heeded  by  this  great  nation.  Educated  by  the  facts  of  science,  by  the 
precepts  of  the  Bible,  and  by  the  joy  of  temperance  service,  the  chil- 
dren have  grown  to  manhood  and  womanhood  and  have  helped  vote 
out  of  existence  the  traffic  in  alcoholic  beverages.7 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  quickly  learned  the  political  methods  of 
the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union.8  And  it  added  certain 
refinements  and  techniques  of  its  own.  In  reaching  the  lobby  of  the 
people,  the  real  source  of  power,  it  used  the  existing  organization  of 
the  evangelical  churches.  Ernest  Cherrington,  the  head  of  the  League's 
educational  and  propaganda  work,  admitted  this  when  he  wrote,  "The 
church  voters'  lists  .  .  .  constituted  the  real  key  to  the  situation." 
Although  it  took  "many  years  of  difficult  and  persistent  endeavor"  to 
line  up  the  churches  on  the  side  of  the  League,  in  the  end  many  of 
the  churches  co-operated.  Then,  "the  information  as  to  men  and  meas- 
ures sent  to  the  Christian  voters  was  bound  to  receive  attention  and 
secure  results."  To  disseminate  still  further  this  information  about 
the  friends  and  foes  of  prohibition,  the  League  arranged  for  two-way 
contacts  between  the  League  lobbyist  in  Washington  and  those  at  each 
state  legislature,  who  in  turn  passed  their  information  on  to  the  church 
voters.  As  Dinwiddie,  the  first  League  lobbyist  at  the  national  capital, 


put  the  matter,  if  those  drys  in  Congress  knew  who  their  friends  were 
in  the  states  and  those  drys  in  the  states  knew  who  their  friends  were 
in  Congress,  "between  the  upper  and  nether  millstones"  something 
would  happen.9 

As  well  as  keeping  the  drys  informed  about  the  voting  habits  of  their 
representatives,  the  League  arranged  for  those  representatives  to  be 
swamped  with  appeals  and  with  threats  of  defection  at  the  polls  be- 
fore they  voted  on  each  important  measure.  The  invention  of  the 
telephone  led  to  the  addition  of  the  telegram  to  the  great  fluttering 
white  blossom  of  petition.  The  founder  of  the  League,  Howard  Hyde 
Russell,  played  an  interesting  part  in  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  itself.  He  testified  that,  with  the  aid  of  the  financial  angel 
of  the  League,  S.  S.  Kresge,  he  had  compiled  a  list  of  thirteen  thousand 
businessmen  favorable  to  national  prohibition.  They  were  told  what 
to  do.  Russell's  testimony  continued: 

We  blocked  the  telegraph  wires  in  Washington  for  three  days.  One 
of  our  friends  sent  seventy-five  telegrams,  each  signed  differently  with 
the  name  of  one  of  his  subordinates.  The  campaign  was  successful. 
Congress  surrendered.  The  first  to  bear  the  white  flag  was  Senator 
Warren  Harding  of  Ohio.  He  told  us  frankly  he  was  opposed  to  the 
amendment,  but  since  it  was  apparent  from  the  telegrams  that  the 
business  world  was  demanding  it  he  would  submerge  his  own  opinion 
and  vote  for  submission.10 

Fear  of  the  power  of  the  League  was  so  great  and  blatant  among 
Congressmen  that,  according  to  the  Washington  Times,  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  would  not  have  passed  if  a  secret  ballot  had  made  it 
impossible  for  the  League  to  punish  the  disobedient  at  the  next  elec- 

Wayne  B.  Wheeler,  in  a  series  of  articles  in  the  New  York  Times 
in  1926,  gave  more  details  of  the  League's  methods  of  pressure.  He 
said  that  the  Washington  headquarters  of  the  League  corresponded 
with  every  possible  friend  in  Congress  and  went  to  see  each  personally. 
All  fifty  thousand  field  workers  of  the  League  in  the  states  were  kept 
advised  of  the  attitude  of  their  members  in  Congress.  They  were  also 
advised  on  methods  of  winning  over  new  converts  in  the  states.12  It 
was  in  this  excellent  contact  between  Washington  and  the  states,  and 
in  the  channeling  of  information  from  the  Capitol  through  the  church 
leaders  to  the  church  voters  that  the  League  had  its  influence.  Even 
when  the  "decent  vote'*  was  in  a  minority  in  a  state,  the  Democrats 
and  Republicans  were  usually  so  evenly  divided  that  a  switch  of  that 
vote  from  one  side  to  the  other  would  decide  the  election.  The  League 
held  the  balance  of  power  in  many  areas  and  thus  exerted  pressure  out 
of  proportion  to  its  following.  Moreover,  it  consciously  tried  to  attract 

CREEPING    BARRAGE   /    111 

those  people  who  were  influential  in  their  communities.  Mrs.  Eliza- 
beth Tilton  made  this  clear  at  the  National  League  convention  of  1919. 
She  said  that  prohibition  was  put  through  by  getting  the  500,000 
"opinion-makers"  on  the  dry  side,  for  the  other  99,000,000  people  of 
America  were  apathetic  and  unimportant.  She  continued,  "As  we  hold 
these  500,000  so  we  shall  hold  the  law;  as  we  let  them  become  apa- 
thetic we  shall  lose  the  law/'13  She  was  correct. 

Against  such  efficient  dry  pressure  politics,  the  brewers  and  distillers 
did  both  too  little  and  too  much,  but  invariably  too  late.  Again  and 
again,  their  paid  publicists  warned  the  liquor  traders  that  they  would 
be  doomed  unless  they  cleaned  up  their  business  and  organized  against 
the  drys.  Percy  Andreae  pointed  out  to  the  Brewers'  Association  in 
1913,  the  year  that  the  League  decided  upon  its  national  drive,  that 
the  greatest  irony  about  the  liquor  trade  was  to  be  accused  of  med- 
dling in  politics  when  it  did  little  or  nothing  of  the  sort.  In  all  of  the  435 
congressional  districts  of  the  United  States,  the  League  had  an  organ- 
ization. The  brewers  had  none.  Their  only  hope  was  to  organize  the 
"millions  and  millions  of  falsely  described  foreign  citizens"  to  hold 
the  drys  at  bay.  By  a  quick  subsidy  of  the  foreign-language  press  and 
use  of  the  saloonkeepers  and  their  friends,  the  wets  might  save  the 
day.  Otherwise,  they  would  be  destroyed.14 

The  trouble  with  the  wet  movement  in  its  inception  was  that  it  was 
directed  by  those  who  were  financially  interested  in  the  liquor  busi- 
ness. These  men  relied  on  the  traditional  practices  of  bribery  and 
corruption,  which  had  served  the  trusts  well  in  the  nineteenth  century. 
Only  the  times  had  changed.  When  a  contagion  of  progressive  reform 
was  sweeping  the  country,  the  brewers  and  distillers  were  among  the 
few  who  did  not  catch  the  disease.  Thus  they  died  of  it,  refusing  to 
pay  for  the  few  inoculations  of  house  cleaning  which  would  have  split 
the  temperance  reformers  from  the  extreme  prohibitionists. 

Moreover,  the  dry  lobbies  were  angels  of  agreement  compared  with 
the  disharmonious  wet  interests.  Although  in  the  nineteenth  century 
the  grape  growers  and  brewers  and  distillers  had  clung  together  to 
fight  prohibition  by  "skulking  behind  the  grape"  and  preaching  the 
virtues  of  light  wines  and  beer  to  hide  the  horrors  of  ardent  spirits, 
they  soon  split  apart  as  the  drys  grew  more  successful.  In  California 
particularly,  where  the  wine  industry  had  great  local  support,  the 
grape  growers  would  support  the  drys  in  their  attacks  on  the  saloons, 
which  chiefly  sold  beer  and  spirits.  The  brewers,  in  their  turn,  tried  to 
save  themselves  by  referring  to  beer  as  the  temperance  drink  and  sup- 
porting the  prohibition  of  spirits.  They  ran  large  advertisements  in 
1917,  claiming  that  the  true  relationship  of  beer  was  "with  light  wines 
and  soft  drinks  — not  with  hard  liquor"  Meanwhile,  the  distillers 


accused  the  brewers  of  debauching  America  in  the  saloons,  which 
were  chiefly  owned  and  controlled  by  the  breweries.  The  brewers  even 
fought  among  themselves.  "Domestic"  brewers  supported  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  against  "shipping''  brewers  when  the  League  wanted  to 
prohibit  or  tax  heavily  the  shipment  of  beer  across  state  borders. 
"Shipping"  brewers  would  then  support  the  drys  in  neighboring  states, 
for  a  dry  state  meant  greater  profits  for  the  liquor  traders  in  the  wet 
states  nearby.  Indeed,  in  the  economic  war  between  the  various  liquor 
groups,  each  saw  the  dry  cause  as  a  possible  ally  in  the  suppression  of 
its  competitors.  Only  when  the  dry  cause  became  too  strong  and  the 
hour  was  already  too  late  did  the  winegrowers  and  brewers  and  dis- 
tillers make  common  cause.  Even  so,  in  the  same  year  that  Congress 
passed  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  the  drys  in  California  were  de- 
lighted by  the  sight  of  large  posters,  bought  by  wet  organizations, 
which  read,  "There  is  no  place  in  America  for  the  saloon.  This  not  an 
economic  question,  but  it  is  a  moral  one."15 

Of  course,  the  brewers  were  further  unlucky  in  that  they  were 
strongly  pro-German  by  birth  and  preferred  to  use  as  propaganda 
units  such  groups  as  the  "unpatriotic"  German-American  Alliance. 
Their  known  sympathies  made  them  appear  to  be  tainted  by  the 
militarism  and  alleged  atrocities  of  their  country  of  origin.  But  if  they 
were  unfortunate  to  be  branded  as  traitors  by  the  Great  War,  they 
were  stupid  to  be  caught  in  1917  in  the  act  of  buying  up  newspapers 
and  elections.  The  revelations  of  the  last-minute  efforts  of  the  liquor 
trade  to  bribe  itself  out  of  trouble  seemed  to  confirm  all  the  allegations 
of  the  drys.  If  the  brewers  were  proved  to  be  disloyal  and  corrupt, 
so  was  the  substance  which  they  made.  Perhaps  it  really  was  the  beer 
which  tainted  both  the  maker  and  the  drinker.  If  it  was  abolished, 
then  America  could  become  truly  patriotic  and  democratic  at  last. 

The  actual  methods  of  disseminating  their  propaganda  differed  from 
drys  to  wets.  The  Anti-Saloon  League  and  the  Woman's  Christian 
Temperance  Union  poured  out  a  volume  of  pamphlets,  clipsheets,  and 
posters  to  church  voters  and  the  unregenerate.  By  1912,  the  eight 
Westerville  presses  of  the  League  were  turning  out  approximately 
250,000,000  book  pages  of  literature  a  month.  These  included  thirty- 
one  state  editions  of  the  American  Issue,  the  American  Patriot,  the 
New  Republic,  and  the  Scientific  Temperance  Journal.  Two  more 
papers,  the  Worker  and  the  National  Daily  were  begun  in  1915.  By 
1920,  although  some  of  the  smaller  papers  of  the  League  had  been 
discontinued,  the  printing  of  the  American  Issue  rose  to  a  yearly  total 
of  eighteen  million  copies.16  The  Woman's  Christian  Temperance 
Union  was  hardly  outdone.  Its  presses  at  Evanston,  Illinois,  produced 

CREEPING    BARRAGE   /    113 

in  the  year  of  crisis,  1928,  ten  million  copies  of  a  pamphlet  listing  the 
wet  record  of  Al  Smith.17 

But  even  more  numerous  were  the  pamphlets  printed  by  the 
League.  In  the  fourteen  years  after  1909,  the  League  printed  over  one 
hundred  million  pamphlets  and  leaflets.  These  were  distributed 
through  churches,  corporations,  and  labor  unions.  Propaganda  fell 
thicker  than  hailstones  on  the  heads  of  the  people.  Few  escaped  the 
ubiquitous  slogans  of  the  drys,  which  filled  the  billboards  and  hoard- 
ings and  newspapers  of  the  time. 



FOR  own  l  WIL**  BE 


HOW  IS  ALCOHOL  RELATED  TO  ¥*loul         WORKS  OF 






The  drys  also  used  another  method  of  propaganda,  which  had  once 
been  credited  with  bringing  about  the  Reformation.  That  was  the 
hymn,  or  religious  marching  song.  The  melodies  were  often  familiar 
evangelical  tunes  with  new  words  set  to  them.  The  most  popular  of 
all  the  songs  was,  perhaps,  "The  Saloon  Must  Go": 

I  stand  for  prohibition 

The  utter  demolition 

Of  all  this  curse  of  misery  and  woe; 

Complete  extermination 

Entire  annihilation 

The  Saloon  must  go. 

In  a  more  patriotic  vein,  the  tune  of  the  "Marseillaise"  was  given 
new  words: 

Arise,  arise,  ye  brave 

The  world,  the  world  to  save 

O,  break,  O,  break  Rum's  mighty  pow'r, 

The  world,  the  world  to  save.  .  .  . 

He  Can't  Put  It  Out 

The  democratic  method  of  bringing  down  the  saloon  was  also  urged 
musically  at  dry  song  fests.  All  that  was  necessary  for  victory  was 
"Only  a  Ballot,  Brother": 

Then  slight  not  the  ballot,  my  brother, 
Be  mindful  to  vote  as  you  pray; 
For  God  is  as  just  as  gracious, 
Then  choose  for  the  right  today. 

Another  propaganda  device  of  the  prohibitionists  was  the  use  of 
authorities,  lifted  out  of  context,  to  justify  their  cause.  Amen-em-an, 
an  Egyptian  priest  from  2000  B.C.  was  credited  with  the  first  temper- 
ance statements;  and  after  him  came  a  motley  collection  of  patriarchs, 
prophets,  politicians,  and  poets,  including  such  notorious  drys  as 
Solomon  and  Homer.  To  prove  the  prohibitionist  sympathies  of  Homer, 
Hector's  retort  to  his  mother  was  quoted: 

"Far  hence  be  Bacchus9  gifts!"  Hector  rejoined. 
"Inflaming  wine,  pernicious  to  mankind, 
Unnerves  the  limbs  and  dulls  the  noble  mind." 

The  frequent  drinking  feats  of  the  Greek  heroes  went  unmentioned. 
They  were  forgotten,  while  the  warnings  of  Isaiah,  Habakkuk,  An- 
acharsis  the  Scythian,  Buddha,  the  anonymous  author  of  the  Chinese 


classic  She-King,  St.  Paul,  Pliny  the  Elder,  Plutarch,  St.  Augustine, 
Mohammed,  the  author  of  the  Eddas,  Luther,  and  even  Shakespeare 
were  brought  into  line  behind  the  drys.  Shakespeare's  real  sympathies 
were  held  to  lie  in  the  line  from  Othello,  "Oh,  thou  invisible  spirit  of 
wine,  if  thou  hast  no  name  to  be  known  by,  let  us  call  thee  devil.**  The 
roll  of  the  dry  forerunners  continued  through  Bacon,  writing  under 
his  own  name,  and  Milton. 

Some  by  violent  stroke  shall  die 

By  fire,  flood,  famine;  by  intemperance  more.  .  .  . 

The  list  of  the  prophets  approached  modern  times  with  Prior,  Kant, 
Young,  Chesterfield,  Rowland  Hill,  Fielding,  Wesley,  John  Adams, 
Goldsmith,  Cowper,  Goethe,  Moltke,  Bismarck,  and,  until  the  Great 
War,  Kaiser  Wilhelm.18 

The  propaganda  reply  of  the  wets  was  initially  in  the  hands  of  the 
brewers  and  distillers.  They  employed  some  of  the  methods  of  the 
drys,  but,  instead  of  the  organization  of  the  churches,  they  used  the 
organization  of  the  saloons  and  of  the  foreign-language  associations 
and  newspapers.  After  the  beginning  of  this  century,  the  brewers  were 
spending  some  seventy  thousand  dollars  a  year  on  advertising  in  for- 
eign-language newspapers.  By  1915,  they  estimated  that  their  distribu- 
tion of  wet  literature  was  about  450,000,000  pieces  a  year,  including  a 
magazine  and  a  weekly  newsletter  to  some  5300  small-town  news- 
papers.19 This  propaganda,  however,  so  blatantly  displayed  self-inter- 
est that  it  was  ineffective.  Moreover,  the  fact  that  the  brewers  were 
largely  responsible  for  the  immense  expansion  of  the  German-Ameri- 
can Alliance  as  their  chief  pressure  group  involved  them  in  its  down- 

Against  the  songs  of  the  drys,  the  wets  had  a  tradition  of  drinking 
songs  which  reached  back  into  the  feasts  of  antiquity.  But  somehow 
these  songs  seemed  to  express  pathos  and  roister  rather  than  sincere 
feeling.  A  wet  apologist  conceded: 

The  representative  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  could  play  on  a  thou- 
sand chords  of  memory  and  of  sentiment  that  touched  the  emotions. 
The  Liquor  Dealers'  Association  had  no  such  unfailing  resource;  they 
could  have  offered  nothing  more  moving  in  the  sentimental  line  than 
the  memory  of  "My  Bonnie  Lies  Over  the  Ocean/'  bawled  at  midnight 
with  beery  emotion  by  a  casual  quartette,  dwelling  long  and  lovingly 
on  the  chord  of  the  diminished  fifth.20 

Even  the  most  sentimental  of  all  the  saloon  songs,  'The  Face  on  the 
Barroom  Floor,"  ended  with  the  awful  warning  of  the  drunkard's 

116   /THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

Another  drink,  and  with  a  chalk  in  hand, 

the  vagabond  began 
To  sketch  a  face  that  might  well  buy 

the  soul  of  any  man. 
Then,  as  he  placed  another  lock 

upon  the  shapely  head, 
With  a  fearful  shriek,  he  leaped  and  fell 

across  the  picture  —  dead.21 

As  for  the  authorities  of  history,  the  wets  had  an  endless  source  of 
politicians  to  justify  the  running  over  of  the  flowing  bowl.  These  wet 
champions  included  Oliver  Cromwell,  George  Washington,  Thomas 
Jefferson,  Jefferson  Davis,  Theodore  Roosevelt,  Woodrow  Wilson,  and 
Samuel  Gompers.  The  wets  also  claimed  the  sympathies  of  the  most 
popular  hero  of  the  time,  Abraham  Lincoln.  It  was  a  proved  fact  that 
Lincoln  had  run  a  grocery  store  which  sold  liquor,  and  that  he  was 
President  of  the  United  States  when  the  federal  government  had  put 
a  tax  on  liquor  for  the  first  time.  On  the  other  hand,  he  had  praised 
the  cause  of  temperance;  and,  according  to  the  unsubstantiated  word 
of  a  contemporary  United  States  commissioner,  had  said  to  him,  "Don't 
drink,  my  boy;  great  armies  of  men  are  killed  each  year  by  alcohol."22 
But  Lincoln's  real  position  seems  to  have  been  one  of  moderation,  in 
which  he  chided  the  dramsellers  for  the  wrongs  they  did  and  defended 
them  against  the  "thundering  tones  of  anathema  and  denunciation"  of 
the  militant  drys.23  The  Anti-Saloon  League,  however,  was  less  inter- 
ested in  his  true  feelings  than  his  myth.  It  called  its  Total  Abstinence 
Union  the  Lincoln-Lee  Legion,  thus  making  one  at  last  the  two  heroes 
whom  the  Civil  War  had  separated. 


EVEN  IF  patriotism  is  not  always  the  last  refuge  of  a  scoundrel,  it  was 
certainly  the  final  barrage  of  the  prohibitionists.  It  was  the  ideal  which 
put  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  "over  the  top."  Prohibition  was  pre- 
sented as  "first  and  foremost  a  patriotic  program  of  'win  the  war/  "24 
An  incessant  volley  of  dry  propaganda  preached  that  all  patriots 
must  be  prohibitionists  to  save  food  for  the  starving  Allies;  that  Ger- 
man-Americans were  guilty  of  spying  and  treason  and  drinking  beer; 
that  the  German  armies  had  committed  their  atrocities  under  the 
influence  of  alcohol;  that  the  worst  Kaiser  of  all  was  the  liquor  Kaiser; 
and  that  peace  without  victory  and  a  land  fit  for  heroes  were  only 
possible  in  an  earth  free  from  the  jack  boots  of  Hun  brewers.  Indeed, 
not  only  would  the  war  bring  about  national  and  international  pro- 
hibition, but  lack  of  the  ideology  of  prohibition  had  brought  about 
the  world  war.  Purley  A.  Baker  made  this  quite  clear. 


The  junker,  the  Kaiser,  the  murderer  of  the  Arch-Duke  Ferdinand 
and  his  wife,  in  fact  the  very  house  of  the  Hohenzollern,  are  but  the 
merest  incidents  in  bringing  on  this  world  holocaust.  The  primary  and 
secondary  and  all-compelling  cause  is  that  a  race  of  people  have  arisen 
who  eat  like  gluttons  and  drink  like  swine  —  a  race  whose  "God  is  their 
belly,"  and  whose  inevitable  end  is  destruction.  Their  sodden  habits  of 
life  have  driven  them  constantly  toward  brutality  and  cruelty  until 
they  were  prepared  to  strike  for  universal  conquest,  though  millions 
of  lives  and  oceans  of  blood  was  to  be  the  price  of  reaching  that  un- 
holy ambition.  Beer  will  do  for  a  nation  exactly  what  it  will  do  for  an 
individual.  .  .  .  We  seek  a  saloonless  and  drunkless  world.25 

The  interest  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  of  the  drys  in  military 
and  naval  preparedness  was  nothing  new.  In  both  the  American  Revo- 
lution and  the  Civil  War,  Congress  had  passed  ineffective  measures 
designed  to  keep  troops  from  hard  liquor.  But  what  lawgivers  could 
not  do,  reform  groups  did.  Their  first  point  of  attack  was  the  sale  of 
liquor  to  troops  through  Army  canteens.  This  had  been  forbidden  in 
1832  and  again  in  1882,  but  the  canteens  were  still  flourishing  at  the 
end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  although  they  were  restricted  to  selling 
light  wines  and  beer  to  the  troops.  In  1901,  Congress,  under  dry 
pressure,  passed  a  law  forbidding  the  sale  of  alcohol  from  Army 
canteens.  Although  military  efficiency  was  the  plea  of  the  drys  for 
this  measure,  they  were  perhaps  more  interested  in  protecting  the 
morals  of  the  defenders  of  the  nation.  For,  to  them,  "prostitution, 
alcohol,  and  venereal  diseases  have  been,  and  are,  an  inseparable  trio, 
and  to  successfully  combat  one,  means  a  concerted  attack  on  all 

Woodrow  Wilson  gave  the  drys  both  a  supporter  as  Secretary  of 
the  Navy,  Josephus  Daniels,  and  the  exploitable  condition  of  war. 
Daniels  had  been  brought  up  on  a  farm  and  was  the  editor  of  a  small 
Southern  newspaper;  his  upbringing  and  convictions  had  made  him  a 
confirmed  prohibitionist.  On  April  5,  1914,  he  issued  an  order  for- 
bidding the  use  of  alcoholic  liquor  in  the  Navy.  This  caused  a  burst 
of  protest;  no  event  in  the  first  half  of  that  year  was  so  lampooned  or 
cartooned.27  As  the  New  York  World  protested,  America  was  sending 
splendid  fleets  to  sea  with  their  officers  tutored  like  schoolboys  and 
chaperoned  like  schoolgirls.28 

War  hysteria  made  Daniels's  later  measures  more  acceptable,  how- 
ever, for  efficiency  rather  than  liberty  had  become  the  symbol  of  the 
nation.  The  American  Medical  Association  passed  a  resolution  in  1917 
which  came  to  the  startling  conclusion  that  "sexual  continence  is  com- 
patible with  health  and  is  the  best  prevention  of  venereal  inf  ections" 
and  that  one  of  the  methods  for  controlling  syphilis  was  the  control  of 


alcohol »  As  a  result,  Daniels  stopped  the  practice  of  the  distribution 
of  contraceptives  to  sailors  bound  on  shore  leave,  and  Congress  passed 
laws  setting  up  dry  and  decent  zones  around  military  camps  *  The  ob- 
ject was  to  give  America  "the  soberest,  cleanest,  and  healthiest  fighting 
men  the  world  has  known.*30  But  the  prohibitionists  also  used  the 
five-mile  dry  area  around  military  bases  as  a  weapon  to  close  the 
saloons  of  large  cities.  In  California,  the  drys  even  tried  for  a  fifteen- 
mile  limit  around  camps,  which  would  have  closed  all  the  saloons  in 
San  Francisco.31  In  wet  Hoboken,  the  brewers  lost  a  battle  with  the 
military  authorities  to  keep  the  swinging  saloon  doors  open  after  ten 
o'clock  at  night.32  Many  barkeepers  were  fined  for  selling  liquor  to  men 
in  uniform.  Only  at  Coney  Island  could  soldiers  and  sailors  change 
into  the  grateful  anonymity  of  bathing  suits  and  drink  without  molesta- 
tion from  a  patriotic  passer-by.33 

The  prohibitionists  were  not,  however,  content  with  protecting  the 
soldiers  in  the  United  States.  They  also  demanded  that  the  Army 
should  be  protected  overseas.  An  order  of  General  Pershing  that  Amer- 
ican troops  in  France  should  be  allowed  light  wines  and  beer  was 
bitterly  attacked  in  Congress  by  the  sole  Prohibition  party  Congress- 
man, Randall,  of  California,  who  asked  the  President  to  rebuke  Persh- 
ing for  disobeying  Army  regulations.  Pershing  replied  that  he  was 
merely  bringing  the  American  Army  into  line  with  French  regulations. 
Moreover,  it  was  a  standard  practice  to  issue  liquor  to  front-line  troops 
in  the  British  and  French  armies.34  Pershing  did  not  tell  the  real  truth 
of  conditions  in  Europe  behind  the  lines.  These  were  noted  by  an 
American  intelligence  officer  who  was  keeping  up  his  diary  in  a  French 
city  in  September,  1918,  "Place  full  of  newcomers,  trying  to  dry  up 
France  in  one  evening.  Also  full  of  tarts,  with  Yanks  falling  en 

The  people  of  America  were  not  protected  from  the  drys  as  was  the 
Anny  overseas.  They  were  subject  to  all  the  rumors  and  fears  of 
civilians  at  war.  And  these  rumors  and  fears  were  exploited  and  di- 
rected by  the  activity  of  the  propaganda  experts  of  the  time,  George 
Creel,  his  notorious  Committee  on  Public  Information,  and  the  pro- 
hibitionists. For,  in  time  of  war,  "all  the  specific  means  of  conquering 
the  Evil  One  are,  and  should  be,  glorified.  The  cult  of  battle  requires 
that  every  form  of  common  exertion  (enlistment,  food-saving,  muni- 
tion making,  killing  the  enemy)  should  have  the  blessing  of  all  the  holy 
sentiments.*38  As  the  Secretary  of  War  said,  the  government  aimed  at 

*  The  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union  was  jubilant  over  this  measure 
by  Daniels.  It  thought  that  the  armed  forces  would  be  forced  into  continence, 
thus  ending  die  "double  standard,"  and  beginning,  for  both  the  man  and  the 
woman,  "the  white  life  for  two/' 


"the  whole  business  of  mobilizing  the  mind  of  the  world/'37  This  was 
also  the  whole  business  of  the  drys.  A  huge  majority  of  Americans 
were  swept  up  in  the  fervor  of  patriotism,  and  this  same  fervor  could 
be  used  for  the  dry  cause  if  only  the  people  were  convinced  that 
"prohibition  spells  patriotism/'38  Even  such  a  bitter  foe  of  prohibition 
as  Mencken  admitted  that  prohibition  did  have  substantial  popular 
support  during  the  war. 

Homo  boobiens  was  scientifically  roweled  and  run  amok  with  the 
news  that  all  the  German  brewers  of  the  country  were  against  the 
[eighteenth]  amendment;  he  observed  himself  that  all  German  sympa- 
thizers, whether  actual  Germans  or  not,  were  bitter  opponents  of  it. 
His  nights  made  dreadful  by  dreams  of  German  spies,  he  was  willing 
to  do  anything  to  put  them  down,  and  one  of  the  things  he  was  will- 
ing to  do  was  to  swallow  Prohibition.39 

The  extent  of  war  hysteria  between  1917  and  1919  is  difficult  to 
imagine.  Never  have  so  many  behaved  so  stupidly  at  the  manipulation 
of  so  few.  George  Creel,  whose  genius  at  misrepresentation  and 
exaggeration  was  hardly  exceeded  by  that  of  Gargantua,  could  call 
on  the  propaganda  services  of  most  of  the  artists  and  intellectuals  of 
the  nation,  whose  peacetime  sanity  was  deranged  by  the  excesses 
perpetrated  in  the  name  of  country.  Spies  were  thought  to  be  every- 
where, lurking  in  each  foreign  accent  and  behind  each  puff  of  smoke 
without  fire.  Voluntary  societies  of  a  quarter  of  a  million  zealous  in- 
formers channeled  gossip  to  the  Department  of  Justice.  "There  was  no 
community  in  the  country  so  small  that  it  did  not  produce  a  com- 
plaint because  of  failure  to  intern  or  execute  at  least  one  alleged 
German  spy/'  Terror  gave  every  suspicious  occurrence  the  color  of 

A  phantom  ship  sailed  into  our  harbors  with  gold  from  the  Bol- 
sheviki  with  which  to  corrupt  the  country;  another  phantom  ship  was 
found  carrying  ammunition  from  one  of  our  harbors  to  Germany; 
submarine  captains  landed  on  our  coasts,  went  to  the  theater  and 
spread  influenza  germs;  a  new  species  of  pigeon,  thought  to  be  Ger- 
man, was  shot  in  Michigan;  mysterious  aeroplanes  floated  over  Kansas 
at  night.  .  .  .40 

There  were  not  policemen  enough  to  track  down  every  denunciation, 
and  the  volunteer  committees  of  citizens  merely  added  to  the  general 
terror.  An  invisible  enemy  plotted  an  unseen  conspiracy  throughout 
the  land,  and  fear  and  the  drys  profited. 

But  the  brewers  played  into  the  hands  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League. 
They  had  decided  that  their  only  hope  of  survival  was  to  organize 
support  among  the  largest  and  most  respectable  group  of  beer  drink- 


ers  in  the  nation,  the  German-Americans.  In  1901,  a  Dr.  Charles  John 
Hexamer  had  organized  a  National  German-American  Alliance,  whose 
object  was  ostensibly  the  teaching  of  German  culture  and,  in  reality, 
the  formation  of  an  antiprohibition  organization.  In  1914,  the  Alliance 
claimed  a  membership  of  two  million  and  was  certainly  the  most 
formidable  foe  of  the  drys.  In  the  areas  of  its'  greatest  strength  — 
Pennsylvania,  New  York,  Ohio,  Wisconsin,  Indiana,  Illinois,  and  Iowa 
—  state-wide  prohibition  could  not  be  passed.  The  Alliance  considered 
that  prohibition  was  directed  primarily  against  "German  manners  and 
customs,  and  the  joviality  of  the  German  people,"  in  the  same  way  as 
the  drys  considered  that  the  saloon  was  primarily  an  attack  on  the  old 
American  virtues.41  As  an  article  in  the  Alliance  monthly  magazine 
said,  "In  order  to  gain  for  the  Germans  of  America  that  place  in  the 
sun  which  has  hitherto  always  been  denied  them,  it  is  absolutely 
necessary  that  they  enjoy  personal  liberty,  and  that  this  shall  not  be 
whittled  away  by  the  attacks  of  the  prohibitionists  and  the  persecutors 
of  the  foreign-born."  In  fact,  the  Alliance  was  quite  correct  in  con- 
sidering prohibition  as  an  attack  on  the  more  recent  immigrants  to 
America,  although  it  was  foolish  to  place  the  main  emphasis  of  its 
defense  of  the  saloons  on  its  Germanism  rather  than  on  the  promise  of 
America  to  all  immigrants. 

After  1913,  through  the  medium  of  the  brewers'  publicist,  Percy 
Andreae,  the  Alliance  received  heavy  subsidies  from  the  beer  com- 
panies. A  "lobbying  committee"  of  the  Alliance  was  set  up  in  Washing- 
ton to  combat  the  influence  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League.  After  the  out- 
break of  the  war  in  1914,  this  lobby  was  also  concerned  with  trying  to 
keep  the  United  States  strictly  neutral.  Indeed,  as  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  linked  patriotism  with  prohibition  and  preparedness  against 
Germany,  so  the  German-American  Alliance  linked  prohibition  with 
the  enmity  of  German-Americans  against  England  and  with  loyalty 
to  the  fatherland.  John  Schwaab,  of  the  Ohio  Alliance,  made  this  clear 
in  1915.  "The  drink  question  is  forced  upon  us  by  the  same  hypocritical 
Puritans  as  over  there  are  endeavoring  to  exterminate  the  German 

In  1918,  the  German-American  Alliance  was  investigated  by  the 
Senate  and  made  to  disband.  It  was  discovered  that  the  leaders  of  the 
Alliance  had  said  some  arrogant  and  stupid  things  which  could  be 
construed  as  disloyalty  to  the  United  States.  The  Alliance  had  dis- 
played the  German  flag  and  sung  "Deutschland  xiber  Alles."  Moreover, 
it  had  become  associated  with  political  deals  of  questionable  honesty 
with  the  brewers  in  the  fight  against  prohibition.42  This  concatenation 
of  evidence  was  enough,  in  the  zealous  mood  of  war,  to  damn  both 
the  Alliance  and  the  brewers.  And  the  material  was  perfect  for  ex- 


ploitation  by  the  speakers  and  pamphleteers  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
League.  One  League  pamphlet,  reviewing  the  findings,  said  of  Hex- 
amer's  statement  that  the  only  correct  form  of  government  was  a 
constitutional  monarchy: 

No  loyal  citizen  would  compare  his  country  in  this  way  with  Ger- 
many. Who  would  trade  freedom  for  slavery,  or  democracy  for 
autocracy?  Lives  there  a  man  in  America  with  soul  so  dead,  that  he  has 
never  said  with  pride,  this  is  my  native  or  chosen  land,  the  best  coun- 
try in  the  world?  If  there  be  such  let  him  ask  for  a  passport  at  once, 
America  is  good  enough  for  Americans. 

The  time  had  come,  the  pamphlet  went  on,  for  a  division  between 
those  who  were  for  German  beer  drinkers  and  those  were  for  the 
loyal  drys,  for  a  split  between  "unquestioned  and  undiluted  American 
patriots,  and  slackers  and  enemy  sympathizers."  Since  this  was  the 
year  of  the  ratification  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  the  most  pa- 
triotic act  of  any  legislature  or  citizen  was  "to  abolish  the  un-American, 
pro-German,  crime-producing,  food-wasting,  youth-corrupting,  home- 
wrecking,  treasonable  liquor  traffic."43 

Their  connection  with  the  German-American  Alliance  was  not  the 
end  of  the  folly  of  the  American  brewers.  Later  on  in  the  same  year, 
they  were  proved  to  have  interfered  with  elections  and  bought  news- 
papers, including  the  Washington  Times  for  a  sum  of  half  a  million 
dollars.  In  the  indictment  brought  against  them  by  the  spy-hunting 
Attorney  General  A.  Mitchell  Palmer,  they  were  accused  of  conduct 
worthy  of  a  corporate  Benedict  Arnold.  'The  organized  liquor  traffic 
of  the  country  is  a  vicious  interest  because  it  has  been  unpatriotic, 
because  it  has  been  pro-German  in  its  sympathies  and  its  conduct" 
According  to  Palmer,  the  breweries  were  owned  by  rich  men  of  Ger- 
man sympathies,  and  they  deliberately  founded  organizations  "to  keep 
young  German  immigrants  from  becoming  real  American  citizens."  It 
was  "around  the  sangerfests  and  sangerbunds  and  organizations  of  that 
kind,  generally  financed  by  the  rich  brewers,  that  the  young  Germans 
who  come  to  America  are  taught  to  remember,  first,  the  fatherland,  and 
second,  America."44  In  the  atmosphere  of  the  day,  such  a  jumbled 
accusation  was  tantamount  to  proof,  and  the  contention  of  the  drys 
seemed  evident,  that  beer  corrupts  and  powerful  brewers  corrupt 

Two  more  tendencies  in  the  state  of  war  worked  for  the  dry  cause. 
The  first  was  the  tendency  towards  centralization.  With  the  federal 
government  taking  over  railroads  and  shipping,  putting  through  con- 
scription and  the  requisition  of  factories,  the  friends  of  states*  rights 
and  personal  liberty  were  powerless.  The  current  argument  was  one  of 

122   /THE    ROOTS    OF     PROHIBITION 

human  efficiency,  whether  in  the  production  of  munitions  or  in  the 
killing  of  Huns.  Obviously,  alcohol  was  helpful  neither  to  men  who 
worked  long  hours  at  machines  nor  to  those  who  aimed  at  the  enemy 
through  rifle  sights.  As  a  popular  dry  stereopticon  slide  said,  above 
a  reproduction  of  American  soldiers  shooting  at  Germans,  beer  drink- 
ers showed  three  times  as  many  "errors  of  precision,"  and  "good  shoot- 
ing demands  good  eyesight."  Moreover,  the  rise  in  federal  power 
through  wartime  prohibition  seemed  trifling  compared  with  the  huge 
new  powers  of  the  government  over  the  lives  and  goods  of  Americans. 
Yet  no  other  war  measures  of  the  Wilson  government  were  written 
into  the  Constitution.  They  were  repealed  immediately  upon  the  close 
of  demobilization.  Only  national  prohibition  was  preserved  in  the  Con- 
stitution like  "an  unpleasant  fly  in  imperishable  amber."45 

The  second  passing  trend  that  the  prohibitionists  utilized  was  the 
pressure  towards  food  conservation.  Herbert  Hoover  had  dramatized 
the  need  of  the  Belgians  for  food.  The  submarine  blockade  of  England 
and  France  emphasized  this  need.  One  dry  economist  claimed  that  the 
grain  used  in  liquor  manufacture  would  produce  eleven  million  loaves 
of  bread  a  day  for  the  starving  Allies.  Another  said  that  these  food- 
stuffs would  meet  the  energy  requirements  of  seven  million  men  for  a 
year.  According  to  Maud  Radford  Warren,  "Every  man  who  works  on 
the  land  to  produce  drink  instead  of  bread  is  a  loss  in  winning  the 
war;  and  worse,  he  may  mean  a  dead  soldier."46  Moreover,  it  was 
claimed  that  the  liquor  trade  was  "the  Kaiser's  mightiest  ally"  in  using 
up  space  in  the  American  communications  system. 

Brewery  products  fill  refrigerator  cars,  while  potatoes  rot  for  lack 
of  transportation,  bankrupting  fanners  and  starving  cities.  The  coal 
that  they  consume  would  keep  the  railroads  open  and  the  factories 
running.  Pro-Germanism  is  only  the  froth  from  the  German  beer- 
saloon.  Our  German  Socialist  party  and  the  German-American  Al- 
liance are  the  spawn  of  the  saloon.  Kaiser  kultur  was  raised  on  beer. 
Prohibition  is  the  infallible  submarine  chaser  we  must  launch  by 
thousands.  The  water-wagon  is  the  tank  that  can  level  every  Prus- 
sian trench.  Total  abstinence  is  the  impassable  curtain  barrage  which 
we  must  ky  before  every  trench.  Sobriety  is  the  bomb  that  will  blow 
kaiserism  to  kingdom  come.  We  must  all  become  munition-makers.47 

Such  irrational  and  emotional  slogans  were  effective,  where  all  was 
appeal  and  slogan  and  glory  and  "The  Star-Spangled  Banner."  The 
wets,  indeed,  retaliated  less  effectively,  but  in  kind.  They  threw  back 
the  charges  of  treason  in  the  faces  of  the  drys.  Sergeant  Arthur  Guy 
Empey,  war  hero  and  author  of  the  best-selling  Over  the  Top,  declared 
that  front-line  troops  needed  a  rum  ration  to  put  them  in  fighting  trim. 
"Many  of  the  extremists,  on  the  dry  side,  think  they  are  patriotic.  All 


they  are  doing  is  playing  into  the  hands  of  the  Hohenzollern  gang/'48 
Accusations  were  made  that  the  dry  effort  to  prohibit  the  manufacture 
of  alcohol  was  a  German  plot  to  stop  supplies  of  the  vital  alcohol 
used  for  making  smokeless  gunpowder.  Another  line  of  wet  attack  was 
that  the  loss  of  revenue  from  the  liquor  tax  would  cripple  America's 
war  effort.  The  National  Bulletin  of  ,the  brewers  and  distillers  went  so 

124   /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

far  as  to  say  that  the  antidraft  uprisings  in  the  prohibition  states  of 
Arizona,  Oklahoma,  Idaho,  Washington,  and  Oregon  showed  the 
"great  lack  of  patriotism"  in  dry  areas.  Even  worse,  there  were  "many 
close  students  of  conditions  and  events  who  believe  that  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  did  all  it  could  to  encourage  war  with  Germany,  in  the 
hope  that  the  upheaval  incident  to  strife  would  enable  them  to  push 
their  special  propaganda."  The  Bulletin  rightly  pointed  out  that  the 
League's  effort  to  tack  wartime  prohibition  onto  the  Food  Control  Bill 
was  holding  up  Wilson's  program  for  victory,  but  came  to  the  unfair 
conclusion  that  the  drys  were  "Anti-Saloon  Leaguers  and  Prohibition- 
ists first  and  American  citizens  afterwards."  This  statement,  the  Bul- 
letin righteously  observed,  did  not  surprise  anyone  who  had  intimate 
knowledge  of  the  personal  and  mental  traits  of  the  drys.  "The  Kaiser 
has  no  better  friends."49 

Yet  if  the  condition  of  war  was  necessary  for  the  drys  to  secure  the 
passage  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  through  Congress  and  the  state 
legislatures,  the  fact  that  the  amendment  was  passed  in  time  of  war 
left  a  bitter  taste  in  the  mouth  of  the  wets,  which  was  not  solely  their 
disappointed  thirst.  The  North  American  Review  accused  the  drys  of 
"taking  advantage  of  the  Nation's  peril/'  The  Eighteenth  Amendment 
was  the  work  of  "the  incorrigible  bigots,  the  hired  lobbyists  and  the 
pusillanimous  Congressmen  who  place  Prohibition  above  Patriotism/'50 
Lieutenant-Colonel  Theodore  Roosevelt,  Jr.,  expressed  a  similar  feel- 
ing when  he  said,  "Over  in  France  and  in  the  occupied  parts  of  Ger- 
many the  doughboys  feel  very  much  peeved  that  prohibition  should 
have  been  enacted  in  their  absence.  They  feel  that  something  has  been 
put  over  on  them/'51  This  resentment,  whether  true  or  false  in  theory, 
was  real  enough  in  its  psychological  effects.  And,  on  demobilization, 
this  feeling  of  disillusion  and  of  being  cheated  by  their  country  per- 
sisted within  that  highly  influential  group  of  Americans,  the  veterans, 
so  strongly  that  their  organization  was  among  the  first  supporters  of 
modification  and  repeal.  William  Faulkner  gave  a  brilliant  description 
of  a  bunch  of  demobilized  soldiers  sitting  about  a  dance  floor  in  a 
small  Southern  town,  feeling  that  the  postwar  world  of  1919  had  taken 
advantage  of  their  absence  to  exclude  them.  They  were  "the  hang-over 
of  warfare  in  a  society  tired  of  warfare.  Puzzled  and  lost,  poor  devils. 
Once  Society  drank  war,  brought  them  into  manhood  with  a  cultivated 
taste  for  war;  but  now  Society  seemed  to  have  found  something  else 
for  a  beverage,  while  they  were  not  yet  accustomed  to  two  and  seventy- 
five  per  cent"52* 

The  drys  denied  that  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  put  over  on 
the  American  people  while  the  Army  was  away  in  France.  They 
*  Faulkner  is  referring  to  the  weak  beer  legalized  under  wartime  prohibition. 


pointed  out  that  Congress  and  the  legislatures  which  passed  the  amend- 
ment were  elected  in  1916,  before  America  entered  the  war.53  This  is 
correct,  and  it  is  true  that  the  drys  gained  many  victories  in  the  elec- 
tions of  1916.  But  they  could  not  have  secured  the  two-thirds  majority 
which  they  needed  in  both  houses  of  Congress  without  the  switched 
votes  of  such  people  as  Senator  Harding,  who  were  ready  to  change 
sides  because  of  the  changed  feeling  of  America  at  war.  A  reading  of 
the  House  debate  on  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  confirms  this  conclu- 
sion. Patriotism  was  the  bugle  call  sounded  by  the  drys  to  switch  the 
wavering  over  to  their  camp.  Congressman  Cooper,  of  Ohio,  quoted 
Lloyd  George's  words  that  the  liquor  traffic  was  a  greater  enemy  to 
England  than  Germany  and  Austria  were.  According  to  him,  the  sacri- 
fice by  American  mothers  of  their  sons  to  the  Army  gave  the  govern- 
ment the  plain  duty  of  returning  each  soldier  boy  "as  pure  and  morally 
clean"  as  on  the  day  he  left  home.  Lunn,  of  New  York,  resented  the  wet 
slur  on  American  workingmen,  that  they  could  only  uphold  the  Presi- 
dent with  their  right  hand  if  they  were  allowed  a  bottle  of  whisky  in 
their  left.  Campbell,  of  Kansas,  said  that  munitions  workers  should  not 
be  permitted  liquor,  since  they  might  send  defective  armaments  to  the 
soldiers  in  France.  Kelly,  of  Pennsylvania,  said  that  everything  which 
helped  Prussian  might  was  hurtful  to  America,  and  liquor  was  the  chief 
ally  of  the  Kaiser.  He  continued  darkly: 

There  is  coming  a  new  political  alignment  in  this  country,  with 
Americans  on  one  side  and  anti-Americans  on  the  other.  All  those  who 
fight  under  the  black  banner  of  corruption  and  the  yellow  flag  of  trea- 
son must  be  lined  up  so  that  Americans  may  know  their  enemies.  That 
division  will  be  made.  That  battle  will  come.  The  elimination  of  the 
liquor  traffic  in  American  will  mean  assured  victory  to  the  forces  of 

There  were  still  more  appeals  to  the  war  psychology  of  the  House. 
Congressman  Smith,  of  Idaho,  accused  Busch,  the  brewer,  of  trying  to 
introduce  the  German  saloon  system  into  America,  by  his  proposal  to 
serve  in  his  saloons  only  light  wines,  beer,  and  temperance  drinks. 
Good  Americans  would  no  more  take  his  advice  than  the  Kaiser  s  on 
how  to  run  the  war.  Tollman,  of  Arkansas,  found  that  "the  most  arro- 
gant, the  least  polite,  the  coldest  mannered,  the  most  disdainful  citizen, 
is  that  haughty  plutocrat,  the  American  brewer,  usually  tainted  with 
Teuton  sympathies  and  damned  by  a  German  conscience."  Tillman 
thought  Tiome"  was  the  dearest  word  in  the  language  save  the  word 
"mother,"  and  both  had  to  be  protected.  This  could  be  done  by  abol- 
ishing the  "tainted  O.K."  of  the  government  tax  on  liquor.  Americans 
must  be  mobilized  in  the  dry  cause  as  the  Scots  clans  had  been  rallied 
to  war,  with  all  carrying  "the  burning  cross  of  this  crusade  to  every 

126   /THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

home  in  our  great  Republic/'54  In  such  a  charged  atmosphere  of  cries 
to  the  heart  and  the  flag,  it  was  hardly  surprising  that  more  than  two- 
thirds  of  Congress  voted  dry. 

Another  reason  for  supposing  that  the  Anti-Saloon  League  waited 

for  the  war  to  launch  its  campaign  for  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  is 

its  timing.  If  the  League  had  been  sure  of  a  majority  before  war  was 

declared,  it  would  have  pressed  for  the  amendment  at  the  beginning 

of  1917  rather  than  at  the  close  of  the  year.  Indeed,  the  drys  made 

many  damaging  admissions  that  they  had  cleverly  exploited  the  war  to 

bring  about  prohibition.  And  whether  national  prohibition  would  have 

come  without  the  war  or  not,  the  fact  that  the  drys  praised  their  own 

smartness  in  using  the  war  damned  them  out  of  their  own  mouths  as 

guilty  of  employing  abnormal  times  to  secure  their  own  ends.  In  the 

words  of  the  American  Issue  of  May  14, 1919,  "The  spirit  of  service  and 

self-sacrifice  exemplified  in  an  efficient  and  loyal  staff  made  it  possible 

to  take  advantage  of  the  war  situation,  and  of  the  confusion  which  He 

whom  we  serve  has  wrought  among  our  enemies."65  A  sense  of  destiny, 

rarely  absent  from  the  minds  of  revolutionaries,  touched  the  League 

leaders  with  the  conviction  that  the  League  had  been  created  to  save 

America  from  a  pacifist,  German  conspiracy  by  aiding  it  to  plunge  into 

the  militant  Christianity  of  a  just  war.  Purley  A.  Baker  thought  there 

was  no  doubt  that,  without  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  "America  would 

have  been  sufficiently  Germanized  to  have  kept  her  out  of  the  war." 

Baker  continued,  "The  hand  of  a  good  Providence  may  be  as  distinctly 

seen  in. the  origin  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  a  quarter  of  a  century 

ago,  as  it  was  in  the  delivery  of  the  children  of  Israel  from  their  forty 

years  of  wandering/'56 

The  hysteria  of  war  cast  its  false  and  persecuting  simplicity  across 
the  land  until  the  Red  Scare  of  1919  died  from  lack  of  evidence  and 
from  ridicule.  In  this  period,  the  Volstead  Act  was  passed.  Again,  the 
drys  made  use  of  the  militant  spirit  of  the  times  to  accuse  their  oppo- 
nents of  treason.  An  Anti-Saloon  League  official  declared  that  the  man 
who  sent  a  bomb  to  Palmer's  home  "was  inspired  by  Germans  with  wet 
tendencies."57  Senator  Arthur  Capper,  of  Kansas,  attributed  his  home 
state's  decency  and  progress  to  prohibition,  which  had  kept  anarchists, 
the  Bolsheviki,  and  strikers  out  of  the  state.58*  Congressman  Alben 
*  A  current  folk  song  ridiculed  the  eternal  claims  of  Kansas  to  arid  virtue: 

Oh  they  say  that  drink's  a  sin 

In  Kansas 

Oh  they  say  that  drink's  a  sin 

In  Kansas 

Oh  they  say  that  drink's  a  sin 

So  they  gwzde  all  they  kin 

And  they  throw  it  up  agin 

In  Kansas. 


Barkley,  of  Kentucky,  knew  of  nothing  else  in  the  country  which  con- 
tributed so  much  to  Bolshevism  as  the  pernicious  doctrine  of  the 
wets.59  Indeed,  the  pending  "industrial  war"  in  the  United  States  was 
given  as  a  reason  in  the  Senate  for  hurrying  through  the  Volstead 
Act.60  Over  and  over  again,  the  drys  took  the  stand  that  law  and  obe- 
dience to  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  the  only  way  to  preserve 
American  liberties  from  the  new  scapegoat  of  the  nation,  the  Bolshe- 
viki,  whose  ideology  had,  in  William  Howard  Taft's  opinion,  a  "curious 
affinity"  to  autocratic  German  mentality.61 

But  the  mood  of  national  militancy  declined  when  the  Palmer  raids 
proved  that  the  seven  thousand  most  dangerous  radicals  in  America 
were  guilty  of  nothing  at  all,  and  that  the  police  power  of  the  federal 
government  could  be  more  subversive  of  personal  liberty  than  any 
chimera  of  Red  revolution.  The  Anti-Saloon  League  tried  to  preserve 
its  belligerent  spirit  and  its  concept  of  itself  as  the  shock  troop  of  the 
Lord,  but  the  appeals  which  brought  out  dry  voters  in  wartime  were 
answered  by  catcalls  in  time  of  peace.  The  drys  were  left  with  a  sense 
of  nostalgia  for  the  years  when  their  voice  seemed  to  be  the  voice  of  all 
true  Americans  and  patriots.  The  national  feeling  then  had  not  been 
"manufactured  sentiment";  all  the  Anti-Saloon  League  had  done  "was 
simply  to  direct  it  where  and  in  the  manner  in  which  it  would  do  the 
most  good."62 

The  drys  thought  that,  even  if  prohibition  had  been  passed  because 
of  the  psychology  of  war,  this  was  a  good  state  of  mind. 

The  truth  is  that  the  tension  of  war  lifted  the  general  American 
mind  to  a  rare  elevation  of  unselfishness  and  moral  courage;  the 
thought  of  a  society  organized  for  everybody's  welfare  and  for  no- 
body's anti-social  profit  cast  over  the  people's  imagination  a  spell  that 
promised  a  far  better  post-war  than  pre-war  America. 

And  if,  in  the  twenties,  many  of  the  high  colors  of  that  promise  had 
faded,  "the  sensible  reaction  for  sensible  men"  was  "not  a  sneer  at  dis- 
appointed hopes  but  an  honest  resolve  to  recover  and  retain  the  aims 
that  then  stirred  the  national  heart."63  But  what  the  drys  forgot  is  that, 
although  war  breeds  its  own  sacrifice,  it  is  a  sacrifice  of  lives  as  well  as 
personal  habits;  and,  although  peace  breeds  its  own  laxity  of  morals,  it 
also  allows  the  voice  of  reason  and  tolerance  to  be  heard.  Such  a  con- 
vinced wet  as  G.  K.  Chesterton  could  admit  in  1922  that  prohibition 
had  been  passed  "in  a  sort  of  fervour  or  fever  of  self-sacrifice,  which 
was  a  part  of  the  passionate  patriotism  of  America  in  the  war."  But  he 
continued  shewdly  that  men  could  not  remain  standing  stiffly  in  such 
symbolic  attitudes;  nor  could  a  permanent  policy  be  founded  on  "some- 
thing analogous  to  flinging  a  gauntlet  or  uttering  a  battle  cry."64 

128  /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

The  dry  mastery  of  the  techniques  of  pressure  and  propaganda  ex- 
erted  influence  on  Americans  from  the  cradle  to  the  grave.  The  politi- 
cians of  America  were  particularly  susceptible  to  this  influence.  Those 
who  had  political  ambitions  were  forced  to  take  up  a  stand  on  the 
prohibition  issue.  Yet  if  they  announced  their  support  of  either  wets  or 
drys,  they  would  alienate  powerful  groups  of  voters,  and  that  would 
be  the  end  of  their  political  ambitions.  Thus  the  nature  of  the  prohibi- 
tion problem  forced  the  trimmers  of  mankind,  the  politicians,  to  trim 
still  more.  They  could  not  declare  themselves  on  the  issue;  yet  if  they 
did  not  declare  themselves,  they  might  still  be  defeated  at  the  polls. 
They  sought  a  middle  road,  but  that  road  was  hard  to  find.  Thus  they 
progressed,  shifting  back  and  forth,  along  the  delicate  path  of  repre- 
sentatives of  the  people. 

Each  politician  met  the  prohibition  issue  in  his  own  particular  way. 
His  attitude  was  a  compound  of  upbringing  and  circumstance,  geog- 
raphy and  party  line.  He  demonstrated  both  his  own  feelings  and  the 
feelings  of  those  whom  he  sought  to  represent  His  evasions  were  a 
mirror  and  a  reflection  of  the  evasions  of  a  complete  country  over  the 
matter  of  prohibition.  If  politicians  were  forced  to  equivocate  over  the 
dry  dilemma,  their  fault  lay  originally  in  the  divided  feelings  of  the 

Those  who  were,  or  sought  to  be,  President  of  the  United  States 
were  particularly  troubled  by  the  issue.  They  had  to  appeal  to  a  na- 
tional majority  and  could  not  afford  to  offend  large  groups.  In  their 
attempts  to  reach  the  White  House,  they  had  no  relief  from  the  liquor 
problem.  Their  personal  histories  provide  examples  of  the  choices  and 
pressures  which  prohibition  forced  upon  all  politicians  and  upon  all 
men  who  were  dependent  for  their  jobs  on  the  will  of  the  people.  In 
the  story  of  these  individuals,  who  sought  to  represent  a  whole  nation, 
lies  a  microcosm  of  the  tragedy  which  overtook  the  whole  nation.  All 
these  men  tried  to  avoid  the  prohibition  issue,  or  to  be  moderate  in 
their  solutions.  But  the  extremism  of  the  dry  reform,  the  urging  of  po- 
litical ambition,  or  the  exigency  of  office  drove  them  to  the  same  excess 
that  they  deplored  in  the  friends  and  foes  of  prohibition.  He  who 
would  be  President  is  the  least  able  to  avoid  the  problems  of  his  time. 

CHAPTER         f 

Trimming  for  the  White  House 

I  am  not  a  politician,  and  my  other  habits  are  good. 



WILLIAM  JENNINGS  BRYAN  was  frequently  called  the  Great 
Commoner.  Much  of  his  greatness  lay  in  his  mastery  of  the  great 
commonplace.  For  rural  America,  he  was  the  apostle  of  the  average, 
the  evangel  of  everyman,  the  doyen  of  the  drys.  He  thought  that  he  be- 
lieved in  what  his  father  had  believed,  and  his  father's  father:  in  the 
virtue  of  the  female  country  virtues  and  the  value  of  the  male  country 
values.  Those  were  good  who  had  a  white  skin,  a  farm,  or  a  small  busi- 
ness; who  went  to  a  Protestant  church  and  believed  that  the  Bible  was 
wholly  true;  and  who  preached  peace  and  prohibition.1  Those  were 
bad  who  were  not  Anglo-Saxon,  had  large  businesses,  and  lived  in 
large  cities;  who  went  to  mass  or  even  worse  did  not  believe  in  the 
Bible  at  all;  and  who  preached  war  and  wetness.  If  Bryan  talked  isola- 
tionism and  practiced  imperialism  as  Secretary  of  State,  talked  poverty 
and  died  with  an  estate  worth  over  a  million  dollars,  and  talked  peace 
only  to  be  buried  at  his  own  request  with  full  military  honors  in  Ar- 
lington Cemetery,  he  was  defeated  by  the  same  vices  that  were  to  de- 
feat his  village  America.  For  he  embodied  the  prejudices  of  the  old 
Middle  West  and  the  South.  He  spoke  with  a  silver  tongue  of  the 
things  that  his  countrymen  already  knew  and  could  not  say.  He  went 
down  with  them  before  mass  communications  and  the  masses  in  the 
cities.  Loved  and  jeered  at,  he  died,  after  outliving  his  time.  The  savior 
of  one  day  is  the  snigger  of  the  next. 

Bryan's  parents  were  dry  and  quickly  made  him  a  total  abstainer.  He 
once  said  that  he  did  not  know  the  day  he  first  signed  the  pledge,  but 
that  he  guessed  it  was  the  day  he  first  signed  his  name.  He  signed  the 
pledge  many  times  afterwards,  not  because  he  had  broken  it,  but  to 
encourage  college  students  to  do  the  same;  his  wife  called  the  students 
he  thus  improved  "stars  in  his  diadem."2  When  he  was  a  student  him- 
self at  Illinois  College,  he  defended  in  debate  the  resolution  that  in- 


130   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

temperance  was  more  destructive  than  war;  indeed,  his  own  death  was 
partially  the  result  of  his  gluttony.  Leaving  college,  he  became  an  un- 
successful lawyer.  He  earned  his  first  money  by  collecting  the  debts  of 
a  saloonkeeper;  he  satisfied  his  conscience  on  the  point  by  stating  that, 
although  those  who  drank  alcohol  were  sinners,  those  who  drank  and 
did  not  pay  for  it  were  worse  ones.8 

But  Bryan,  for  the  first  eighteen  years  of  his  political  career,  did  not 
allow  his  private  habits  to  obtrude  upon  his  public  life.  In  1890,  he 
was  elected  to  a  seat  in  Congress  with  the  help  of  the  business  and 
liquor  interests  in  Omaha.  As  he  became  more  and  more  powerful  in 
the  Democratic  party,  he  became  less  and  less  outspoken  on  the  liquor 
question.  The  Democrats  depended  for  some  of  their  money  and  much 
of  their  vote  on  the  brewers  and  the  drinking  cities. 

When  Bryan,  then  the  leader  of  the  Nebraska  Democrats,  came  to 
the  party  convention  of  1896  as  a  young  man  of  thirty-six,  he  came,  in 
the  opinion  of  Clarence  Darrow,  expecting  to  be  nominated  for  the 
presidency,  although  no  one  else  thought  of  him  as  such  a  possibility. 
Darrow,  later  to  turn  the  aged  Bryan  s  eloquence  to  ridicule  at  the 
Scopes  trial,  went  on  to  explain  why  Bryan's  well-rehearsed  cross-of- 
gold  speech  had  the  fantastic  effect  of  making  him  the  presidential 
candidate  that  year,  after  men  and  women  had  cheered  and  laughed 
and  cried  to  listen  to  him. 

Platforms  are  not  the  proper  forums  for  spreading  doubts.  The 
miscellaneous  audience  wants  to  listen  to  a  man  who  knows.  How  he 
knows  is  of  no  concern  to  them.  Such  an  audience  wishes  to  be  told, 
and  especially  wants  to  be  told  what  it  already  believes.  Mr.  Bryan 
told  the  Democratic  convention  of  1896  in  Chicago  what  he  believed. 
Not  only  did  he  tell  them  that,  but  he  told  them  what  they  believed, 
and  what  they  wanted  to  believe,  and  wished  to  have  come  true.4 

Biyan  had  the  gift  of  expressing  uncommonly  well  the  common  yearn- 
ings of  the  rural  mind. 

Bryan  ran  for  President  in  1896,  1900,  and  1908;  he  lost  each  time 
by  an  increasing  number  of  votes.  On  the  1896  campaign  train,  he 
used  to  rub  himself  with  gin  to  remove  his  sweat  so  that  he  frequently 
appeared,  smelling  like  a  wrecked  distillery;  but  the  reporters  never 
accused  him  of  drinking  his  rub,  since  he  spent  the  long  journeys  try- 
ing to  convert  them  to  abstinence.  He  campaigned  for  free  silver  and 
various  progressive  measures;  but  he  never  mentioned  prohibition.  As 
his  wife  rather  naively  stated  in  his  memoirs,  he  was  slow  to  take  up 
the  cause  of  national  prohibition,  since  Tie  did  not  want  to  confuse  the 
mind  of  the  voter  with  too  many  issues  and  was  unwilling  to  approve 
this  reform  until  it  was  ripe  for  action."5 

TRIMMING    FOR     THE    WHITE     HOUSE/    131 

Prohibition  was  the  bugaboo  of  would-be  Presidents;  it  lost  wet 
votes  without  gaining  enough  compensatory  dry  ones.  William  Jen- 
nings Bryan  did  not  adopt  the  cause  of  national  prohibition  until  he 
was  fairly  certain  he  would  never  be  able  to  run  for  President  again, 
and  until  he  needed  a  victorious  new  crusade  to  restore  his  political 
power  and  reputation.  In  1920,  he  was  to  have  an  unpleasant  row  with 
William  H.  Anderson,  the  superintendent  of  the  New  York  Anti-Saloon 
League,  who  accused  him  of  jumping  on  the  dry  wagon  only  when  it 
was  sure  to  roll  home. 

Bryan's  wife  wrote  that  he  started  his  campaign  for  county  option  in 
a  hired  hall  in  Omaha  in  1908.  He  had  reason  to  be  annoyed  with  the 
liquor  interests.  Missouri,  which  had  voted  for  him  in  1896  and  1900, 
voted  for  Taft  in  1908.  Bryan  explained  the  switch  and  his  losses  in  the 
large  cities  by  blaming  the  influence  of  the  brewers,  who  opposed  all 
potential  Presidents  who  were  personal  teetotalers.  Moreover,  although 
Bryan  had  supported  the  progressive  reforms  of  the  initiative  and  the 
referendum  in  Nebraska,  they  had  been  blocked  by  Democratic  Sena- 
tors in  the  pay  of  the  wets,  who  feared  that  the  drys  would  force 
through  measures  to  close  the  saloons  by  means  of  a  referendum. 

Bryan  brought  up  the  matter  at  a  state  party  convention  in  1910  and 
split  the  Democrats  over  the  issue.  He  was  heavily  defeated  in  the  vot- 
ing by  the  wets  and  lost  control  of  the  Democratic  state  machine.  He 
had  his  revenge  by  turning  against  the  Democratic  and  wet  nominee 
for  Governor,  and  by  securing  his  defeat.  Bryan's  reasons  for  disloyalty 
to  his  party  were  moral: 

The  liquor  business  is  on  the  defensive;  its  representatives  are  for 
the  most  part  lawless  themselves  and  in  league  with  lawlessness.  They 
are  in  partnership  with  the  gambling  heD  and  the  brothel.  They  are  the 
most  corrupt  and  corrupting  influence  in  politics,  and  I  shall  not  by 
voice  or  vote  aid  them  in  establishing  a  Reign  of  Terror  in  this  state.6 

Despite  the  bitter  opposition  of  the  Nebraska  wets,  Bryan  was 
elected  as  a  delegate  to  the  Democratic  convention  of  1912.  Because  of 
his  help  in  Woodrow  Wilson's  nomination  and  because  of  his  party 
services  in  the  campaigns  of  sixteen  years,  Bryan  was  appointed  Secre- 
tary of  State  by  Wilson.  His  only  aid  to  the  dry  cause  was  to  ban  liquor 
from  his  official  dinners.  American  policy  in  the  Caribbean  remained 
as  aggressive  as  ever,  provoking  in  Theodore  Roosevelt  the  remark, 
"Well!  grape  juice  diplomacy  under  Wilson  does  not  bid  fair  to  be 
much  better  than  dollar  diplomacy  under  Taft."7 

The  adoption  of  the  policy  of  national  prohibition  by  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  in  1913  put  pressure  on  all  politicians  to  declare  themselves  on 
the  issue.  The  pressure  was  particularly  hard  on  Bryan.  He  was  the 


leading  teetotaler  among  politicians,  and  he  depended  for  his  political 
power  on  the  dry  Middle  West.  Yet  his  behavior  shows  that  he  put  his 
party  before  his  personal  convictions  until  his  personal  convictions 
could  become  a  weapon  to  keep  his  power  within  his  party.  In  the 
elections  of  1914,  he  was  careful  to  equivocate  on  the  prohibition  issue, 
since  Wilson  wanted  no  wet  votes  lost  in  the  election  of  a  Democratic 
majority  in  Congress.  It  was  only  at  the  safe  end  of  the  campaign  that 
Bryan's  magazine,  the  Commoner,  announced  that  he  would  in  future 
support  state-wide  prohibition,  although  he  would  not  support  na- 
tional prohibition. 

Bryan  was  unhappy  in  Washington.  His  home  was  on  the  Chautau- 
qua  circuits,  delivering  his  golden  platitudes  on  the  subject  of  "The 
Prince  of  Peace"  or  "The  Price  of  a  Soul/'  Moreover,  his  political  power 
lay  in  the  West.  After  failing  in  three  presidential  campaigns,  his  only 
hope  of  retaining  his  influence  in  his  party  was  to  lead  a  new  crusade, 
which  would  capture  both  party  and  country.  That  crusade  was  pro- 
hibition. In  1915,  Bryan  looked  at  the  increasing  victories  of  the  drys 
in  the  country  areas  which  loved  him,  and  found  them  good.  While  he 
was  still  Secretary  of  State,  in  defiance  of  the  policy  of  his  party  and 
his  President,  Bryan  began  campaigning  for  state  prohibition.  In  1915, 
he  made  sixty  speeches  in  forty  counties  to  some  quarter  of  a  million 
people.  He  accepted  payment  for  some  of  these  speeches,  although  his 
wife  declared  that  he  made  a  dozen  free  prohibition  speeches  for  each 
hired  one.  Bryan  declared  shockingly  that  he  could  not  live  within  his 
income  as  Secretary  of  State,  and  justified  his  dry  lectures  as  a  means 
of  keeping  in  touch  with  the  American  people  as  well  as  making  a 

Indeed,  Bryan  was  right.  His  last  hope  of  leading  the  Democrats  was 
to  capture  the  party  for  the  dry  cause.  After  his  resignation  from  his 
cabinet  post  in  1915,  this  became  even  more  true.  Bryan  resigned  as  a 
protest  again  Wilson's  policy  towards  Germany,  which  he  thought  was 
leading  towards  war.  By  his  resignation,  Bryan  put  himself  at  the  head 
of  what  he  knew  to  be  a  majority  of  his  countrymen,  those  who  wanted 
to  preserve  the  peace  and  to  abolish  the  saloon.  Although,  out  of  de- 
ference to  Wilson  in  the  elections  of  1916,  he  spoke  softly  on  the  topic 
of  national  prohibition,  he  declared  for  it  less  than  one  month  after 
the  elections  were  over.  His  reasons  for  doing  so  were  curiously  out- 
spoken for  a  moral  leader.  He  said  that  he  had  not  expected  to  see 
prohibition  become  an  "acute  national  question"  until  1920.  But  "owing 
to  causes  which  no  one  could  foresee,"  the  issue  had  been  precipitated 
upon  the  nation.  "The  Democratic  Party,  having  won  without  the  aid 
of  the  wet  cities,  and  having  received  the  support  of  nearly  all  the  Pro- 
hibition States  and  the  States  where  women  vote,  is  released  from  any 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   133 

obligation  to  the  liquor  traffic/'9  Therefore,  he  implied,  for  the  best 
political  reasons,  he  must  now  lead  the  Democrats  publicly  in  the  way 
in  which  his  own  private  morality  had  always  led  him. 

Yet,  once  war  was  declared  against  Germany,  Bryan's  behavior  mir- 
rored that  curious  aggressive  nationalism  at  the  basis  of  American  paci- 
fism, that  strange  violence  at  the  core  of  the  Christian  drys.  Bryan  vol- 
unteered to  serve  in  the  Army  as  he  had  done  in  the  war  in  Cuba,  as 
colonel  of  his  own  Nebraska  volunteers.  He  wrote  to  Wilson  that  he 
would  fill  in  his  time  before  he  was  called  to  the  colors  by  assisting  the 
Young  Men's  Christian  Association  in  safeguarding  the  morals  of  the 
soldiers  in  their  camps.  He  would  preserve  the  Army  from  liquor  and 
loose  women  so  that  the  soldiers  could  die  pure  and  sober.  He  was  not 
called  to  the  colors,  nor  was  that  other  famous  veteran  from  Cuba, 
Theodore  Roosevelt.  Bryan's  mission  in  winning  the  war  was  confined 
to  propaganda.  He  traveled  widely  in  the  West  and  South,  speaking  in 
Kentucky,  Ohio,  Illinois,  Indiana,  Wisconsin,  Tennessee,  and  Louisiana, 
at  "mostly  peace  and  prohibition  meetings."10  *  But  this  time,  his 
message  was  of  the  virtues  of  peace  with  victory,  and  of  prohibition 
as  patriotism. 

As  Bryan  lost  his  political  influence,  he  tried  to  increase  his  moral 
influence.  His  example  and  practice  taught  clergymen  how  to  lobby 
for  peace,  prohibition,  and  the  Bible.11  He  had  the  happiness  of  seeing 
his  old.  state,  Nebraska,  ratify  the  Eighteenth  Amendment;  suitably,  it 
was  the  thirty-sixth  state  to  ratify,  making  the  amendment  legal.  He 
also  received  a  touching  message  from  the  leaders  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
.  League,  thanking  him  for  his  propagandist  and  political  support  of  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment.  He  had  done  "so  much  to  put  the  cause  of 
temperance  and  prohibition  'over  the  top.'  "12  And  he  was  in  the  select 
company  that  met  at  Washington  to  herald  the  first  day  of  regenerated 
America  under  the  Volstead  Act  on  January  16,  1920.  The  audience 
greeted  the  great  change  with  the  doxology.  At  one  minute  to  mid- 
night, Bryan  preached  a  sermon  on  the  text,  "They  are  dead  that 
sought  the  young  child's  life."  He  explained  that  the  text  was  peculiarly 
appropriate,  as  King  Alcohol  had  slain  a  million  times  as  many  chil- 
dren as  Herod. 

Bryan's  lectures  on  temperance  were  enormously  effective.  He  made 
abstinence  the  supreme  self-sacrifice  and  liquor  the  ultimate  sin.  He 
linked  prohibition  with  every  virtue  and  with  the  cause  of  peace.  He 
was  the  very  voice  and  soul  of  that  great  American  movement  for  self- 
education,  the  Chautauqua.  In  fact,  Bryan's  rise  paralleled  the  rise  of 
the  Chautauqua  in  the  closing  years  of  the  nineteenth  century,  and  his 

*  Mis.  Bryan  significantly  recorded  in  her  diary,  "I  had  some  glimpses  of  what 
a  national  campaign  on  the  subject  would  be  —  a  veritable  religious  crusade." 

134   /   THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

death  in  1925  was  also  reflected  in  the  decline  of  Chautauqua,  after  its 
apogee  in  the  previous  year,  when  thirty  million  Americans  had  heard 

its  message. 

Historians  of  the  Chautauqua  movement  have  brought  out  its  huge 
influence  on  country  and  small-town  life.13  They  point  out  that  Bryan's 
virtues -his  sweetness  of  temper,  his  magnificent  appearance,  his 
teetotalism,  his  simplicity,  and  his  bell-like  voice  -  were  exactly  what 
the  Chautauquas  demanded.  His  power  in  rural  America  was  very  real. 
His  tragedy  was  that  the  clear-cut  values  of  the  village  could  not  be 
translated  into  the  complex  political  action  demanded  by  national  af- 

Bryan  was,  in  fact,  most  at  home  in  front  of  that  tented  audience, 
which  adored  him,  delivering  "passages  of  serious  beauty  and  haunting 
logic"  on  the  good  things  of  life,  such  as  peace  and  prohibition,  love 
and  water.  His  encomium  of  water  is  worth  quoting,  as  an  example  of 
that  style  which  impressed  the  rural  crowds  as  the  revealed  truth. 

Water,  the  daily  need  of  every  living  thing.  It  ascends  from  the 
seas,  obedient  to  the  summons  of  the  sun,  and,  descending,  showers 
blessing  upon  the  earth;  it  gives  of  its  sparkling  beauty  to  the  fragrant 
flower;  its  alchemy  transmutes  base  clay  into  golden  grain;  it  is  the 
canvas  upon  which  the  finger  of  the  Infinite  traces  the  radiant  bow  of 
promise.  It  is  the  drink  that  refreshes  and  adds  no  sorrow  with  it  — 
Jehovah  looked  upon  it  at  creation's  dawn  and  said  —  "It  is  good."14 

Bryan  embodied  and  voiced  rural  faith  and  rural  prejudice.  He  ran 
for  President  when  this  creed  could  put  up  a  fair  fight  for  victory.  In 
his  closing  years,  he  was  jeered  by  the  urban  masses,  which  would 
overthrow  these  beliefs.  Although  he  successfully  kept  wet  planks  out 
of  the  Democratic  party  platforms  in  the  conventions  of  1920  and  1924, 
he  was  hooted  and  booed  at  the  second  convention  by  galleries  of  New 
Yorkers  for  his  defense  of  the  Ku  EHux  Klan.15  Still  more  tragic  was  the 
international  ridicule  of  the  aging  Bryan  defending  his  holy  Bible  at 
the  Scopes  trial  against  the  sniping  of  die  city  lawyer,  Clarence  Darrow. 
Truly,  the  urban  intellectuals  made  a  monkey  out  of  the  pathetic  old 

Bryan's  death  seventeen  days  after  the  Scopes  trial  was  merciful.  He 
did  not  live  to  see  the  destruction  by  depression  of  the  country  Amer- 
ica in  which  he  believed.  He  did  not  live  to  find  his  chief  method  of 
influence,  his  hold  over  the  rural  Chautauqua  audiences,  destroyed 
with  the  financial  failure  of  the  circuits.  For  Bryan's  power  and  weak- 
ness lay  in  his  voice.  It  was  his  tongue  which  persuaded  others  of  the 
virtues  of  prohibition  and  himself.  He  expressed  exactly  what  country 
America  wished  to  hear,  but  only  what  country  America  wished  to 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   135 

hear.  His  success  with  a  minority  of  the  people  meant  his  failure  with 
the  majority.  Moreover,  the  competing  voices  of  civilization,  of  radio 
and  movies,  of  entertainers  and  advertisers,  diminished  the  attraction 
of  the  golden  tones  of  the  Great  Commoner.  When  technology  could 
make  a  fireside  chat  audible  throughout  a  nation,  of  what  value  was  a 
single  voice  which  could  be  heard  without  artificial  aid  from  a  distance 
of  a  quarter  of  a  mile? 

The  phenomenon  that  was  Bryan  was  a  danger  as  well  as  a  tragedy. 
This  aspect  of  him  was  well  brought  out  in  the  vicious  epitaph  on  him 
printed  in  the  New  York  World. 

He  professed  himself  a  Democrat  and  a  Christian,  but  at  bottom 
he  was  always  a  man  looking  for  a  point  of  conflict  where  his  talent 
for  factionalism  could  find  free  play.  Thus  as  a  Democrat  he  spent 
his  chief  energies  quarreling  with  Democrats,  and  as  a  Christian  he 
ended  his  life  quarreling  angrily  with  other  Christians.  ...  It  was 
his  conviction  that  you  could  solve  great  questions  cheaply,  on  hunches 
and  by  a  phrase,  that  made  his  influence  and  his  example  a  dangerous 
one.  The  harm  he  did  to  his  party  by  committing  it  against  its  own 
tradition  to  the  centralized  coercion  of  prohibition,  the  harm  he  did 
to  pacifism  by  associating  it  with  empty  phrases,  the  harm  he  did  to 
Protestantism  by  associating  it  with  ignorance  and  legalized  intoler- 
ance—above all,  the  great  and  unforgivable  harm  he  did  to  his 
country  by  introducing  a  religious  feud  into  politics  — were  all  part 
and  parcel  of  a  life  lived  without  respect  for  or  loyalty  to  the  laborious 
search  for  truth.16 


WHILE  BRYAN  was  popular  only  in  the  country,  Theodore  Roosevelt 
was  popular  everywhere.  Scholar  and  boxer,  historian  and  Western 
sheriff,  intellectual  and  cavalry  leader,  his  appeal  cut  across  lines  of 
party  and  geography.  Yet,  moral  and  forthright  though  his  statements 
were,  his  attitude  toward  prohibition  declared  the  calculating  and  pa- 
ternalist streak  at  the  back  of  all  his  political  doings.  He  was  not  con- 
cerned with  the  rights  and  wrongs  of  the  dry  cause  any  more  than  he 
was  concerned  with  the  rights  and  wrongs  of  the  trusts.  His  arguments 
against  both  were  the  same,  that  they  made  the  body  politic  corrupt. 
Thus  he  believed  in  their  strict  regulation  according  to  the  law.  As 
George  Bernard  Shaw  said,  Roosevelt  was  the  nearest  thing  to  a  Ho-, 
henzollern  that  the  American  Constitution  would  allow  him  to  be.  He 
did  not  mind  about  the  effect  of  spirits  on  the  soul,  but  he  was  anxious 
about  their  effect  on  the  health  of  the  people.  He  was  brought  up  too 
graciously  to  think  that  beer  drinking  was  a  sin  except  for  soldiers  and 
sailors  when  they  were  fighting  for  their  country.  Liquor  was  a  mere 

136   /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

police  and  economic  problem,  only  a  menace  when  it  was  unlicensed 
and  uncontrolled.  In  reality,  the  liquor  seller  was  often  far  less  of  a 
problem  in  politics  than  the  dedicated  prohibitionist 

Roosevelt  first  expressed  his  views  on  prohibition  in  public  to  the 
state  legislature  of  New  York  in  1884.  He  opposed  a  resolution  asking 
for  a  referendum  on  a  state  prohibition  amendment.  He  pointed  out 
that  it  was  idle  to  hope  to  enforce  a  law  when  nineteen-twentieths  of 
the  people  did  not  believe  in  its  justice.  The  resolution  was  lost.  But 
later  Roosevelt  found  himself  ironically  in  the  opposite  position.  He 
was  made  one  of  the  New  York  Police  Commissioners  in  1895,  with 
orders  to  close  down  all  New  York  saloons  on  Sundays.  His  urge  for 
efficiency  and  authority  as  usual  got  the  better  of  his  sympathies  for 
the  freedom  of  the  Sunday  drinker.  He  persecuted  violators  of  the  Sab- 
bath law  with  vim  and  vigor.  As  he  told  the  Catholic  Total  Abstinence 
Union,  the  people  of  America,  although  they  were  united  in  striving  to 
do  away  with  the  evils  of  the  liquor  traffic,  did  not  have  morals  as  their 
primary  concern.  "We  recognize  as  the  first  and  most  vital  element  in 
Americanism  the  orderly  love  of  liberty.  I  put  two  words  together,  'Or- 
derly-Liberty'; and  we  recognize  that  we  feel  that  absolutely  without 
regard  to  race,  or  origin,  or  different  creeds/'17  In  Theodore  Roosevelt's 
version  of  Americanism,  orderliness  came  before  liberty. 

Roosevelt's  views  on  prohibition  are  shown  most  clearly  in  a  manu- 
script which  he  was  too  cautious  to  publish.  It  is  called  On  the  Needs 
of  Commonplace  Virtues  and  was  written  in  1897,  after  his  unfortunate 
experiences  as  a  policeman.  It  is  an  interesting  document,  in  view  of 
his  later  prohibitionist  statements.  It  shows  that,  above  all,  he  was  a 
politician  and  a  pragmatic  prophet,  concerned  with  the  possible  rather 
than  the  good.  To  him,  reformers  who  were  extremists  become  "at  best 
useless  members  of  the  world's  surface,  and  at  worst,  able  allies  of  the 
vicious  and  disorderly  classes."  The  temperance  people  were  a  good 
example.  "Few  things  would  more  benefit  the  community  as  a  whole 
than  the  widespread  growth  of  a  healthy  temperance  movement.  Among 
poorer  people  especially  there  is  probably  no  other  one  evil  which  is 
such  a  curse  as  excessive  drinking."  But,  Roosevelt  continued,  while  he 
grew  more  and  more  to  realize  the  damage  done  by  intemperance,  he 
also  grew  more  and  more  to  realize  the  damage  done  by  "the  intem- 
perate friends  of  temperance.  When  temperance  people  were  willing 
to  act  wisely,  and  with  appreciation  of  the  limitations  of  human  nature, 
and  therefore  of  human  effort,  they  could  do  much  good.  When  they 
were  not  willing  to  act  wisely  they  merely  did  harm;  sometimes  only  a 
little  harm,  and  sometimes  very  much." 

Roosevelt  particularly  objected  to  the  dry  habit  of  running  prohibi- 
tion candidates  in  an  election  between  a  reform  and  a  machine  politi- 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   137 

cian;  this  stupidity  often  split  the  progressive  vote  and  led  to  the  vic- 
tory of  corruption.  Politics  was  more  than  the  art  of  the  possible;  it  was 
the  need  for  the  possible. 

The  effort  to  get  the  impossible  is  always  bound  to  be  feeble.  .  .  . 
No  liquor  law  at  all,  or  the  worst  liquor  law  which  the  wit  of  a  Tam- 
many alderman  could  devise,  would  work  better  in  New  York  than 
absolute  prohibition,  for  the  very  excellent  reason  that  nobody  would 
pay  the  slightest  heed  to  such  absolute  prohibition,  and  so,  in  addition 
to  having  free  liquor,  we  should  have  the  demoralizing  spectacle  of 
open  and  contemptuous  disregard  of  the  law  of  the  land.18 

Vote  splitting  was  the  chief  nuisance  of  prohibition  for  all  politi- 
cians. It  cut  across  the  usual  party  loyalties.  Moreover,  when  the  pro- 
hibitionists had  not  got  what  they  wanted  in  state  or  nation,  they 
tended  to  blame  the  party  in  power.  The  minority  party  was  obviously 
innocent  since  it  had  no  legislative  means  of  suppressing  the  saloons. 
Therefore  it  could  afford  to  make  vague  promises  to  the  drys  in  return 
for  electoral  support.  Only  the  dominant  party  could  be  damned  by  the 
drys,  until  it  enacted  prohibition.  Then  the  drys  switched  to  its  sup- 
port. For  now  they  wanted  executive  law  enforcement,  not  law  change. 
They  wanted  conservation,  not  revolution.  They  wanted  a  strong  fed- 
eral and  state  power,  not  freedom  for  small  communities.  And  here 
Roosevelt  agreed  with  them. 

If  Roosevelt  disliked  the  attack  on  personal  liberty  which  was  the 
ideology  of  prohibition,  he  also  liked  the  order  of  a  land  free  of  sa- 
loons —  especially  in  time  of  war.  He  made  the  same  equation  of  pro- 
hibition and  patriotism  as  did  the  drys.  A  measure  of  Roosevelt's 
change  of  attitude  is  shown  by  a  letter  written  to  William  Allen  White, 
the  Kansas  editor,  in  1914  in  time  of  peace.  White  had  asked  Roose- 
velt to  support  national  prohibition  and  government-controlled  rail- 
ways. Roosevelt  replied: 

As  for  prohibition  nationally,  it  would  merely  mean  free  rum  and 
utter  lawlessness  in  our  big  cities.  Worthy  people  sometimes  say  that 
liquor  is  responsible  for  nine  tenths  of  all  crime.  As  a  matter  of  fact 
foreigners  of  the  races  that  furnish  most  crime  in  New  York  at  the 
present  time  do  not  drink  at  all.  ...  I  do  not  believe  that  the  Ameri- 
can people  can  be  dragooned  into  being  good  by  any  outside  influence, 
whether  it  is  a  king  or  the  majority  in  some  other  locality.19 

Yet,  with  the  declaration  of  war  in  1917,  Roosevelt  supported  both 
the  federal  control  of  the  railroads  and  the  forcible  conservation  of 
food  through  prohibition.  National  efficiency  and  preparedness,  irre- 
spective of  morality,  demanded  prohibition.  Patriotism  in  time  of  war 
meant  the  dragooning  of  people  into  being  sober,  if  not  into  being 

138   /THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

good.  He  wrote  a  much-misused  letter  to  Clarence  True  Wilson,  the 
author  of  Dry  or  Die:  the  Anglo-Saxon  Dilemma.  The  letter  stated  that 
one  of  Roosevelt's  sons  had  become  a  permanent  prohibitionist  after 
seeing  the  effect  of  alcohol  on  the  soldiers  in  Pershing's  Army,  and  that 
Roosevelt  himself  wished  the  drys  every  success  in  their  effort  to  stop 
the  waste  of  food,  men,  labor,  and  brainpower  during  these  days.20 
Roosevelt  died  a  public  supporter  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment. 

Yet  there  was  more  than  patriotism  to  the  ex-President's  change  of 
front.  There  was  a  shrewd  political  calculation.  Roosevelt  was  a  past 
master  at  swimming  the  way  the  tide  was  running,  and  speaking  as  if 
he  were  swimming  the  only  way  that  his  morality  and  his  God  could 
let  him  swim.  A  study  of  his  letters  to  his  political  associates  on  the 
liquor  problem  shows  the  careful  expediency  at  the  back  of  his  moral 

In  the  presidential  campaign  of  1908,  he  was  continually  sending  the 
Republican  candidate,  William  Howard  Taft,  letters  of  advice.  On  July 
16,  he  wrote  that  he  approved  of  Taft's  stand  on  prohibition;  it  was  the 
same  as  Roosevelt's  own.  The  matter  was  not  a  national  issue;  it  was  a 
state  or  local  issue.  Indeed,  the  fanatical  drys  had  a  wicked  attitude, 
but  they  must  be  dealt  with  carefully. 

As  a  mere  matter  of  precaution  I  would  be  careful  to  put  in  your 
hearty  sympathy  with  every  effort  to  do  away  with  the  drink  evil. 
You  will  hardly  suspect  me  of  being  a  prohibitionist  crank.  .  .  .  My 
experience  with  prohibitionists,  however,  is  that  the  best  way  to  deal 
with  them  is  to  ignore  them.  I  would  not  get  drawn  into  any  dis- 
cussion with  them  under  any  circumstances.21 

Roosevelt's  arguments  on  prohibition  are  clear  at  this  point:  to  avoid 
the  subject  if  one  can,  and  to  straddle  if  one  must.  He  himself  was  so 
discreet  in  public  on  the  subject  that  both  sides  claimed  him  as  a  sup- 
porter in  1914.  The  drys  said  that  he  had  declared  for  state-wide  pro- 
hibition and  the  dry  vote  in  Ohio,  the  wets  that  he  was  against  state- 
wide prohibition  on  principle.  Roosevelt  tried  to  get  the  best  of  both 
worlds,  writing  on  October  2  that  he  only  spoke  on  the  matter  when  he 
knew  about  the  local  conditions  involved.22  If  he  failed  to  be  convinc- 
ing it  was  because  it  was  difficult  to  seem  a  friend  of  temperance  in 
intemperate  times. 

By  1915,  however,  every  politician  could  see  that  the  prohibitionists 
were  gaining  dry  ground.  National  prohibition,  especially  if  war  was 
declared,  seemed  likely  to  win.  And  Roosevelt  liked  to  be  on  the  win- 
ning side,  even  if  there  was  hardly  an  enemy  to  defeat,  as  at  San  Juan 
Hill.  Thus  he  wrote  to  Raymond  Robbins  on  June  3  in  a  far  more  sober 
mood.  Robbins  had  made  out  that  no  President  could  be  elected  in 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   139 

1916  who  was  not  sound  on  the  issues  of  Rum  and  Romanism.  Roose- 
velt took  exception  to  the  imputation  that  an  attack  on  Romanism 
should  be  an  issue  in  a  presidential  campaign;  he  was  dead  by  the  time 
Al  Smith  ran  in  1928.  But  he  was  very  wary  over  the  question  of  alco- 
hol and  forecast  a  dry  victory. 

I  do  not  believe  that  Prohibition  at  the  moment  would  prohibit  in 
the  United  States;  but  I  am  heartily  in  favor  of  the  vigorous  control 
and  ultimate  suppression  of  the  open  saloon  for  private  profit;  and  I 
would  make  the  Federal  Government  at  once  take  active  action  in 
support  of  the  local  authorities  of  every  district  in  which  Prohibition 
has  been  voted  by  the  people  themselves.  I  do  not  want  to  go  in 
advance  of  the  people  on  this  issue,  for  I  do  not  believe  you  can  do 
any  good  on  an  issue  of  this  kind  by  getting  too  far  in  advance  of 
them;  but  I  believe  they  will  ultimately  come  to  the  national  sup- 
pression of  the  liquor  traffic  and  I  am  heartily  with  them  when  they 
do  so  come  to  it.2* 

Patriotism  and  political  expertise  made  Theodore  Roosevelt  a  pro- 
hibitionist He  became  so  confirmed  a  dry  that  he  brought  a  libel  ac- 
tion against  a  small-town  editor  who  claimed  that  Roosevelt  was  a 
heavy  drinker.  He  was  careful  to  explain  that  if  he  had  ever  said  that 
he  was  a  heavy  drinker  he  had  said  it  as  a  joke,  and  that  listening  fools 
had  taken  the  jest  too  seriously.24  He  was  even  ready  to  refuse  the 
chance  of  running  for  Governor  of  New  York  State  in  1918,  on  the 
grounds  that  he  supported  the  drys.  This  actually  did  him  no  political 
harm,  since  Boss  Barnes,  when  he  was  told,  said  with  much  force:  "I 
don't  care  a  damn  whether  he  is  for  prohibition  or  against  prohibition. 
The  people  will  vote  for  him  because  he  is  Theodore  Roosevelt!"25 

This  was  the  truth.  "Teddys"  views  on  prohibition  did  not  matter, 
because  he  was  "Teddy."  He  was  dear  to  the  heart  of  every  urban 
American  who  dreamed  of  an  outdoor  life  spent  in  the  massacre  of  the 
larger  animals,  and  of  every  country  American  who  liked  the  paradox 
of  the  clean-living  politician.  He  was  rough,  tough,  and  efficient,  the 
friend  of  the  cowboy  and  the  boxer  and  the  nation.  His  speeches  about 
liquor  did  not  matter  too  much;  he  had  drunk  sufficient  in  his  time. 
Whatever  his  devious  political  utterances  might  be,  it  was  more  or  less 
understood  that  he  really  wanted  every  virile,  manly  American  to  have 
his  small  amount  of  beer  and  war.  But  war  before  beer.  If  his  beloved 
Germany  was  the  enemy,  then  the  German  brewers  must  go. 

President  Wilson  continued  to  deny  Roosevelt  his  two  dearest  wishes, 
the  Congressional  Medal  of  Honor  for  his  Cuban  charge  and  command 
of  his  own  division  in  the  war  of  France,  despite  pleas  in  the  House  to 
recruit  this  "kaiser  of  democracy."26  In  return,  Roosevelt  was  plotting 
with  Senator  Henry  Cabot  Lodge  how  best  to  wreck  Wilson's  peace 


when  he  died.  He  had  remained  true  to  his  prejudices  concerning  the 
necessity  for  power  politics  and  war  among  competing  nations,  even  if 
the  sentiment  of  the  majority  may  well  have  supported  the  League  of 
Nations  in  1919.  He  was  false,  however,  to  his  beliefs  about  temper- 
ance, in  order  to  accommodate  himself  with  the  apparent  majority.  He 
might  have  died  more  honestly  if  he  had  held  to  his  opinions  of  1907 
on  both  peace  and  prohibition: 

With  the  sole  exception  of  temperance,  I  think  that  more  nonsense 
is  talked  about  peace  than  about  any  other  really  good  cause  with 
which  I  am  acquainted.  Everybody  ought  to  believe  in  peace  and 
everybody  ought  to  believe  in  temperance;  but  the  professional  ad- 
vocates of  both  tend  towards  a  peculiarly  annoying  form  of  egoistic 


IF  POLITICS  pushed  William  Jennings  Bryan  and  Theodore  Roosevelt 
into  declaring  themselves  for  prohibition,  the  administration  of  justice 
did  the  same  service  for  William  Howard  Taft  and  Charles  Evans 
Hughes.  There  were,  indeed,  many  other  similarities  between  these 
two  physically  dissimilar  men.  Both  had  fathers  who  objected  to  the  use 
of  strong  liquor  and  tobacco;  both  reacted  from  these  early  prohibi- 
tions of  their  youth.  Both  became  Chief  Justice  of  the  Supreme  Court 
after  running  unsuccessfully  for  President.  Taft  had  been  President  for 
four  years  from  1908  owing  to  his  nomination  within  the  Republican 
party  by  Theodore  Roosevelt;  he  lost  the  office  to  Woodrow  Wilson 
when  Roosevelt  came  forward  as  a  Progressive  in  1912  and  split  the 
Republican  vote.  Had  Hughes  avoided  a  split  between  the  Progressives 
and  Republicans  in  1916  by  shaking  Hiram  Johnson's  hand  in  Califor- 
nia, he  might  have  been  President  in  1916;  but  California  voted  for 
Wilson,  and  he  returned  to  the  White  House.  Both  Taft  and  Hughes 
opposed  national  prohibition  and  found  themselves  in  the  position  of 
heading  the  Supreme  Court,  which  upheld  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment But,  while  Taft's  experience  as  Chief  Justice  made  him  change 
his  opinion  from  wet  to  dry,  Hughes  remained  a  wet  in  all  but  inter- 
pretation of  the  law,  and  became  one  of  the  greatest  champions  of  civil 
rights  ever  to  sit  on  the  Supreme  Court. 

In  the  presidential  campaign  of  1908,  Taft  took  Theodore  Roosevelt's 
political  advice  and  followed  his  own  inclinations.  He  was  a  temperate 
man  himself;  in  his  own  opinion,  he  was  "as  temperate  a  man  as  there 
is  anywhere."28  He  applied  his  personal  wariness  of  liquor  to  his  politi- 
cal opinions  and  declared  that  he  supported  the  moderate  position  of 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/    141 

local  option.  Even  the  visit  of  the  amazon  Mrs.  Carry  Nation  did  not 
shake  his  position.  Taft  would  not  say  to  her  that  he  supported  the 
temperance  crusade.  Luckily,  she  had  left  her  hatchet  at  home,  and 
could  only  denounce  him  vocally  as  a  wet  and  an  infidel,  since  he  was 
Unitarian  by  faith  and  thus  believed  Christ  to  be  a  bastard. 

Taft  was  President  before  the  Anti-Saloon  League  decided  on  their 
campaign  for  national  prohibition.  Thus  he  was  not  unduly  bothered 
by  the  dry  problem  while  he  was  in  the  White  House.  He  had  all  the 
lawyer's  veneration  for  the  holiness  of  the  Constitution  and  did  not 
want  the  sacred  document  altered.  After  runing  third  in  the  presiden- 
tial campaign  of  1912,  behind  Wilson  and  Roosevelt,  he  continued  his 
opposition  to  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  from  private  life.  He  con- 
ceded that  a  great  deal  of  evil  resulted  from  the  drinking  of  too  much 
alcohol;  but  his  impression  was  that  there  was  less  drinking  among  the 
intelligentsia  than  ever  before,  and  that  the  failure  of  state  prohibition 
had  provided  a  warning  against  national  prohibition.29  He  was  glad  of 
the  failure  of  the  Hobson  resolution  in  1914,  since  he  was  too  much  of 
an  individualist  and  a  Republican  to  welcome  the  vast  increase  in  the 
number  of  federal  officials  needed  to  enforce  such  a  law.  He  forecast 
correctly  that  prohibition  would  make  politics  in  the  big  cities  even 
more  corrupt  than  the  saloons  did.80 

Indeed,  by  1919,  The  Yearbook  of  the  United  States  Brewers9  Asso- 
ciation was  gleefully  reprinting  the  ex-President's  denunciation  of  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment.  Taft  stated  bluntly: 

I  am  opposed  to  national  prohibition.  I  am  opposed  to  it  because 
I  think  it  is  a  mixing  of  the  national  government  in  a  matter  that 
should  be  one  of  local  settlement.  I  think  sumptuary  laws  are  matters 
for  parochial  adjustment.  I  think  it  will  vest  in  the  national  govern- 
ment, and  those  who  administer  it,  so  great  a  power  as  to  be  dangerous 
in  political  matters.  I  would  be  in  favor  of  state  prohibition  if  I 
thought  prohibition  prohibited,  but  I  think  in  the  long  run,  except  in 
local  communities  where  the  majority  of  the  citizens  are  in  favor  of 
the  law,  it  will  be  violated.  I  am  opposed  to  the  presence  of  laws  on 
the  statute  book  that  cannot  be  enforced  and  as  such  demoralize  the 
enforcement  of  all  laws.  ...  I  think  it  is  most  unwise  to  fasten  upon 
the  United  States  a  prohibitory  system  under  the  excitement  of  the 
war,  which  I  do  not  hesitate  to  say,  every  sensible  supporter  of  pro- 
hibition in  the  end  will  regret.  ...  I  don't  drink  myself  at  all,  and  I 
don't  oppose  prohibition  on  the  ground  that  it  limits  the  liberties  of 
the  people. 

Taft's  views  were  similar  to  those  of  Theodore  Roosevelt;  he  op- 
posed national  prohibition  on  practical  grounds,  not  in  support  of  any 
nonsense  about  the  sacred  liberty  of  the  subject.  As  he  declared  later: 


A  national  prohibition  amendment  to  the  federal  Constitution  will 
be  adopted  against  the  views  and  practices  of  a  majority  of  the  people 
in  many  of  the  large  cities,  and  in  one-fourth  or  less  of  the  states.  The 
business  of  manufacturing  alcohol  liquor  and  beer  will  go  out  of  the 
hands  of  law-abiding  members  of  the  community,  and  will  be  trans- 
ferred to  the  quasi-criminal  class.  In  the  communities  where  the  major- 
ity will  not  sympathize  with  a  federal  law's  restrictions,  large  numbers 
of  federal  officers  will  be  needed  for  its  enforcement.  The  central 
government  now  has  very  wide  war  powers.  When  peace  comes,  these 
must  end,  if  the  republic  is  to  be  preserved. 

Taft  continued  to  say  that,  although  wartime  prohibition  might  be 
temporarily  desirable,  the  nation  must  "summer  and  winter'*  such  a 
measure  for  years.  People  must  learn  to  adjust  themselves  to  soft 
drinks  in  time  of  peace.  The  Eighteenth  Amendment  would  be  a  strain 
on  the  bonds  of  the  Union.  It  would  produce  variety  in  the  enforce- 
ment of  the  law.  The  matter  of  light  or  heavy  enforcement  would 
corrupt  and  confuse  elections.  Individual  self-restraint,  improved  so- 
cial standards,  and  strong  employers  were  better  ways  of  bringing 
about  temperance.  Taft  opposed  both  the  corrupt  saloons  and  the 
moral  crusade  of  the  "minority"  drys.  He  deplored  the  fact  that  the 
Anti-Saloon  League  backed  dry  candidates  for  political  office,  however 
useless  their  public  service  was,  and  that  weak  politicians  knuckled 
under  to  the  prohibitionists  for  fear  of  losing  the  dry  vote.81 

TafYs  opinions  at  this  time  are  worth  quoting  at  length  because 
they  set  out  admirably  the  conservative's  and  lawyer's  objections  to 
national  prohibition.  Extension  of  the  power  of  the  federal  govern- 
ment, fear  of  increased  opportunities  for  graft  and  crime,  dislike  of 
moral  legislation,  knowledge  of  the  impossibility  of  effective  enforce- 
ment, anger  at  the  methods  of  the  drys  and  their  use  of  war  psychology 
to  get  their  business  through,  stress  on  the  need  for  prolonged  testing 
of  such  a  vast  reform,  belief  in  individualism  and  education  —  these 
were  the  reasons  Taft  gave  for  opposing  the  Eighteenth  Amendment. 
They  were  the  same  reasons  that  were  given  by  the  conservative 
Association  Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment,  which  pressed  for 
repeal  throughout  the  twenties. 

But  politics  made  Taft  deny  himself  in  the  interests  of  justice.  Presi- 
dent Harding  appointed  him  to  head  the  Supreme  Court  in  June,  1921. 
His  new  job  was  to  make  the  Constitution  work,  with  all  its  amend- 
ments and  additions.  Taft  venerated  the  document  as  the  basis  of 
American  law  and  liberty.  He  believed  in  it  whole  and  indivisible, 
as  he  believed  in  his  Unitarian  God.  So  he  changed  his  mind  and  his 
convictions  over  prohibition  and  became  the  most  arid  of  the  drys, 
even  quarreling  with  his  wife  in  the  only  running  row  they  had  in  all 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   143 

their  long  marriage.  Later  he  wonderingly  said,  in  the  naiVe  belief 
that  his  old  world,  not  himself,  had  changed  its  mind:  "It  used  to  be 
that  all  the  nuts  were  drys.  But  now  it  seems  all  the  nuts  are  wets."82 

Charles  Evans  Hughes  was  already  an  Associate  Justice  on  the 
Supreme  Court  when  he  decided  to  accept  the  Republican  nomination 
for  President  in  1916.  It  was  the  first  time  a  major  party  had  taken  its 
candidate  from  the  Supreme  Court;  but  the  Republicans  were  hard 
pressed  to  find  someone  of  like  mental  and  moral  stature  to  President 
Wilson,  running  for  office  for  a  second  time  on  a  peace  policy.  Both 
Hughes  and  Wilson  were  progressive  intellectuals,  sons  of  clergymen, 
internationalists,  sometime  university  professors,  and  reform  state 
Governors.  In  fact,  Theodore  Roosevelt  once  said  Hughes  was  merely 
Wilson  with  whiskers. 

Prohibition  was  not  a  major  issue  in  the  campaign  of  1916.  Peace 
or  preparedness  was  the  battleground.  Theodore  Roosevelt's  belliger- 
ent bellowings  effectively  branded  the  Republicans  as  the  war  party, 
despite  Hughes's  protestations.  The  known  Anglophile  Wilson  even 
received  the  majority  of  the  German  votes,  only  to  declare  war  on 
the  Kaiser,  soon  after  winning  the  election.  The  Anti-Saloon  League 
continued  its  policy  of  endorsing  dry  candidates  of  both  parties;  but 
the  drys  do  not  seem  to  have  backed  war  and  the  Republican  presi- 
dential candidate  overmuch,  even  though  lining  up  with  the  Allies 
might  have  given  national  prohibition  its  best  chance  of  enactment.  Yet 
care  for  the  dry  vote  made  both  candidates  cautious  of  their  public 
relations.  Mrs.  Hughes  served  only  grape  juice  to  the  thirsty  pressmen 
on  board  the  Republican  campaign  train,  the  Constitution** 

Hughes  was  a  moderate  drinker  himself,  but  his  record  as  Associate 
Justice  on  the  matter  of  prohibition  was  unexceptionable.  In  Decem- 
ber, 1912,  he  had  upheld  the  right  of  the  state  of  Mississippi  to  ban 
the  manufacture  of  all  malt  liquors,  whether  intoxicating  or  not.  There 
was  a  widespread  opinion  that  the  sale  of  nonintoxicating  malt  liquors 
led  to  surprising  intoxication  in  those  who  drank  them;  therefore,  it 
was  certainly  reasonable  for  states  to  legislate  on  such  matters.84 
When  Hughes  later  became  Chief  Justice  of  the  Supreme  Court  on 
Taft's  resignation  in  February,  1930,  he  was  to  continue  to  enforce  the 
existing  laws  fairly;  but  he  did  not  change  his  personal  beliefs  or 
habits  in  the  matter  of  the  propriety  of  an  occasional  drink. 

Yet  Hughes,  who  had  returned  to  private  law  practice  after  his 
defeat  in  1916,  refused  a  brief  worth  an  enormous  sum  to  argue  on  the 
side  of  the  wets  in  the  famous  National  Prohibition  Cases.  Rhode 
Island  had  challenged  the  validity  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and 
had  refused  to  ratify  it.  The  state's  case  was  that  Congress  had  no 
right  to  put  "basic  changes"  or  "alterations"  into  the  Constitution; 

144   /  THE    ROOTS    OF     PROHIBITION 

moreover,  the  state  legislatures,  not  the  people,  had  accepted  the 
amendment.  The  case  was  too  absurd  for  Hughes  to  defend,  even 
though  he  thought  national  prohibition  was  unwise  and  impracti- 
cable.35 In  fact,  Hughes  filed  a  brief,  on  behalf  of  twenty-one  attorneys 
general,  supporting  the  legality  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment.  Article 
5  of  the  Constitution  expressly  provided  for  further  changes,  which 
experience  might  make  necessary.  The  Constitution  was  a  flexible, 
not  a  rigid,  document;  this  prevented  it  from  becoming  the  instrument 
of  reaction  or  revolution.  Even  if  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  was 
an  unwise  addition  to  the  Constitution,  it  was  more  important  to 
preserve  Article  5  than  to  oppose  any  amendment.  The  Supreme  Court 
agreed  with  Hughes.36 

Taft,  as  Chief  Justice  throughout  the  twenties,  argued  the  case  for 
the  letter  of  the  Constitution  even  more  than  Hughes  did.  He  saw 
himself  as  the  last  ditch  where  all  inroads  into  the  American  laws 
should  end.  Although  he  was  at  first  discouraged  about  the  liquor 
situation,  he  decided  that  the  remedy  for  bootlegging  and  evasion  of 
the  Volstead  Act  was  more  and  better  enforcement,  not  repeal.  By 
the  end  of  1923,  he  had  fallen  into  the  extreme  dry  error  of  saying  that 
even  moderate  drinkers  were  wrong  and  that  the  use  of  alcohol  for 
pleasure  at  parties  was  wicked.  Those  who  wanted  modification  of  the 
Volstead  Act  and  the  sale  of  light  wines  and  beer  really  wanted  to 
deny  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  altogether.  "They  say  they  are 
opposed  to  saloons,  but  that  they  want  a  moderate  limitation.  What 
they  really  want  is  an  opportunity  to  drink  and  to  entertain  others  with 
drink,  and  all  these  suggestions  are  their  conscious  or  unconscious 
outgrowth  of  that  desire/'37 

No  other  issue  during  his  nine  years  in  the  Supreme  Court  caused 
Taft  as  much  worry  as  prohibition.  His  wife  and  members  of  his 
family  were  convinced  wets.  There  were  wets  among  the  Supreme 
Court  judges.  Twice  he  had  to  cast  his  vote  to  break  a  deadlock  over 
an  unpleasant  issue  dealing  with  prohibition.  He  consistently  voted 
on  the  dry  side,  even  voting  to  uphold  such  reactionary  decisions  as 
those  in  favor  of  double  jeopardy  and  wire  tapping  by  prohibition 
agents.  His  zeal  in  opposing  national  prohibition  before  it  was  enacted 
was  matched  by  his  zeal  in  supporting  the  Volstead  Act  after  he  joined 
the  Supreme  Court.  His  death  in  March,  1930,  was  timely.  He  did  not 
live  to  read  the  report  of  the  Wickersham  Commission,  which  proved 
that  the  laws  he  had  once  thought  unenforceable  were  truly  un- 

Hughes  also  accepted  office  from  President  Harding.  He  became 
Secretary  of  State  and  was  likewise  embarrassed  by  prohibition.  It 
caused  stupid  international  problems.  Great  Britain  strongly  objected 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   145 

to  any  attempt  to  push  back  the  bootlegging  fleet  of  Rum  Row  by 
extending  territorial  waters  beyond  the  three-mile  limit.  London  also 
objected  to  prohibition  agents  searching  and  seizing  rumrunners  which 
flew  the  British  flag  more  than  three  miles  off  the  American  coast.  In 
addition,  all  the  fleets  in  the  world  objected  to  the  clause  in  the 
Volstead  Act  forbidding  foreign  ships  to  carry  intoxicating  drinks  into 
American  ports.  But  by  bullying  and  by  persuading  the  drys  and  Lord 
Curzon,  Harry  Daugherty  and  the  Supreme  Court,  Hughes  eventually 
worked  out  a  compromise.  Foreign  ships  would  be  allowed  to  bring 
liquor  under  seal  into  American  ports,  if  the  United  States  Coast 
Guard  was  allowed  to  seize  rumrunners  within  an  hour's  steaming 
distance  from  the  shore.  Treaties  with  seven  countries,  including  Great 
Britain,  were  signed  to  this  effect.38  To  do  so,  Hughes  made  the  en- 
forcement agents  restore  five  seized  bootlegging  craft  to  their  British 
owners,  banged  the  table  and  shouted  in  front  of  reporters  on  the 
subject  of  the  pigheaded  Lord  Curzon,  spoke  sharply  to  the  easy- 
riding  Daugherty  in  Cabinet  meetings,  and  called  the  Supreme  Court 
"unnecessarily  rigid"  over  its  interpretation  of  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment. Thus  he  achieved  a  sensible  compromise.  He  always  opposed  all 
extremes  and  tried  to  find  a  working  solution.  Hughes  was  a  clever 
and  upright  politician  and  a  temperate  man. 

Hughes  eventually  became  a  respected  judge  on  the  World  Court 
at  the  Hague.  President  Herbert  Hoover  failed  to  persuade  him  in  1929 
to  head  the  proposed  National  Commission  on  Law  Observance  and 
Enforcement.  Although  Hoover  wrote  to  him  on  March  25,  saying  that 
only  he  and  Justice  Stone  could  head  the  commission  and  Stone  was 
not  available,  Hughes  refused  the  thankless  job.  So  did  Owen  J. 
Roberts,  although  Hoover,  in  tempting  Hughes  with  the  job,  had 
referred  to  the  commission  as  "the  oustanding  necessity  of  the  next 
four  years/'39  Thus  the  task  landed  on  Hoover's  fourth  choice,  George 
W.  Wickersham,  who  had  been  Attorney  General  in  Taft's  Cabinet 

Hughes,  however,  did  accept  the  vacant  chief  justiceship  in  1930, 
after  Taft  had  resigned  just  before  his  death.  The  insurgent  fury  in  the 
Senate  at  his  nomination  was  directed  more  against  the  depression 
President  who  appointed  him  than  against  his  own  liberal  character. 
Yet,  as  Chief  Justice,  he  found  himself  in  the  position  of  upholding 
the  most  savage  of  the  prohibition  statutes,  the  Jones  Law.  For  three 
years,  until  repeal  took  the  bitter  duty  from  him,  Hughes  had  to  inter- 
pret the  law  of  the  land  in  favor  of  the  strict  enforcement  of  prohi- 
bition. Only  after  1933  could  he  become  a  great  defender  of  the 
liberty  of  the  individual  and  of  civil  rights.  The  Supreme  Court,  which, 
under  Taft  and  prohibition,  had  tended  towards  the  defense  of  social 

146   /THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

privileges  and  reactions,  under  Hughes  and  repeal  tended  towards  the 
defense  of  personal  liberties  and  opportunities. 

Taft,  a  liberal  by  temperament,  was  unlucky  to  be  Chief  Justice  dur- 
ing the  period  of  prohibition.  He  was  compelled  by  the  political  situa- 
tion to  administer  the  dry  law  with  reactionary  severity.  The  political 
situation  was  kinder  to  Hughes.  Repeal  and  depression  made  it  easier 
for  him  to  judge  with  justice  and  mercy. 


THE  DRY  extremism,  which  political  ambition  or  the  duty  of  the  law 
forced  on  Bryan  and  Roosevelt  and  Taft  and  Hughes,  came  finally  to 
Woodrow  Wilson  through  political  disappointment.  The  coercion  of 
prohibition  appealed  to  frustrated  minds.  Moreover,  Wilson  was  condi- 
tioned in  favor  of  the  diys  by  his  heredity,  if  not  by  his  intellect.  His 
father  and  maternal  grandfather  were  Presbyterian  ministers;  he  came 
of  Scotch-Irish  stock  and  was  born  in  Virginia.  He  remained  a  lover 
of  tradition  and  paternalism  until  he  died.  Even  his  progressive  re- 
forms were  conservative,  intended  to  restore  the  good  of  the  past  by 
tidying  up  the  present.  Like  many  Southerners  and  Presidents,  he 
tended  to  speak  in  public  as  his  Messiah  did,  but  to  compromise  some- 
times in  private  as  his  world  did.  When  he  did  not  compromise  on  the 
question  of  America  joining  the  League  of  Nations,  he  fell  and  his 
policy  with  him.  His  disappointment  made  him  turn  from  support  of 
wine  and  beer  to  support  of  total  national  prohibition. 

Woodrow  Wilson  himself  was  free  from  a  bone-dry  upbringing.  He 
had  seen  in  his  boyhood  his  beloved  grandfather  smoking  and  drinking 
toddy  in  the  Presbyterian  manse.40  He  agreed  with  the  more  liberal 
Southern  aristocrats  that  drinking  and  smoking  were  no  sins,  so  long 
as  alcohol  and  cigarettes  were  kept  in  the  righteous  white  hands  of 
the  right  sex.  The  later  Mrs.  Woodrow  Wilson  herself  disapproved 
of  women  smoking;  she  was  rather  embarrassed  when  mistaken  for 
a  divorcee,  Mrs.  Wilson  Woodrow,  who  advocated  this  feminine  sin 
in  a  magazine  article.41  Wilson  himself  thought  that  drinking  and 
smoking  habits  should  be  settled  by  the  democratic  decision  of  the 
small  communities  he  had  known  when  he  was  young. 

When  Boss  Smith,  of  New  Jersey,  was  looking  for  a  "progressive" 
state  Governor  as  a  front  in  1910,  he  sent  an  attorney  for  the  State 
Liquor  Dealers'  Association  to  sound  out  the  President  of  Princeton  s 
views  on  prohibition.  He  warned  his  messenger,  "Unless  we  can  get  the 
liquor  interests  behind  the  Doctor,  we  can't  elect  him."  For  the  Demo- 
cratic machine  in  New  Jersey  was  openly  supported  by  the  brewers, 
and  they  expected  Democratic  candidates  to  support  them  with 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE  /   147 

equally  openness.  But  Woodrow  Wilson  replied  to  Smith's  envoy,  "I 
am  not  a  prohibitionist.  I  believe  that  the  question  is  outside  of  politics. 
I  believe  in  home  rule,  and  that  the  issue  should  be  settled  by  local 
option  in  each  community."  When  it  was  pointed  out  that  the  brewers 
had  been  fighting  local  option  in  New  Jersey  for  years  and  that  it  was 
the  Democratic  party's  b&e  noire,  Wilson  merely  said,  'Well,  that  is 
my  attitude  and  my  conviction.  I  cannot  change  it."42 

Wilson's  stubbornness  on  the  issue  was  far  more  astute  than  Boss 
Smith  thought  when  he  threatened  to  "smoke  out"  Wilson  later  in  the 
campaign.  By  removing  the  loaded  question  of  prohibition  from  state 
politics  to  the  sphere  of  local  politics,  as  he  tried  to  do  with  the  other 
dangerous  question  of  woman  suffrage,  Wilson  could  hold  Democratic 
support  together  behind  him,  without  introducing  any  divisive  issues. 
If  possible,  he  would  have  liked  to  remove  the  liquor  question  from 
politics  altogether. 

Later  he  tried  to  act  in  the  same  way  on  a  national  scale  in  the 
presidential  election  of  1912,  but  with  less  success.  He  had  carefully 
stated  his  position  in  a  letter  to  the  head  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
of  New  Jersey  in  the  previous  year. 

I  am  in  favor  of  local  option.  I  am  a  thorough  believer  in  local  self- 
government  and  believe  that  every  self-governing  community  which 
constitutes  a  social  unit  should  have  the  right  to  control  the  matter 
of  the  regulation  or  of  the  withholding  of  licenses.  But  the  questions 
involved  are  social  and  moral  and  are  not  susceptible  of  being  made 
parts  of  a  party  program.  Whenever  they  have  been  made  the  subject 
matter  of  party  contests,  they  have  cut  the  lines  of  party  organization 
and  party  action  athwart  to  the  utter  confusion  of  political  action 
in  every  other  field.  They  have  thrown  every  other  question,  however 
important,  into  the  background  and  have  made  constructive  party 
action  impossible  for  long  years  together.  So  far  as  I  am  myself  con- 
cerned, therefore,  I  can  never  consent  to  have  the  question  of  local 
option  made  an  issue  between  political  parties  in  this  State.48 

But  Wilson  did  not  leave  the  matter  there.  He  played  a  dangerous 
game  in  trying  to  make  political  capital  in  a  state  where  the  Democrats 
were  predominantly  dry.  The  same  year,  he  wrote  to  a  prohibitionist 
in  Texas,  denying  that  he  was  always  a  supporter  of  local  option. 

I  believe  that  for  some  states,  state  wide  prohibition  is  possible  and 
desirable,  because  of  their  relative  homogeneity,  while  for  others,  I 
think  that  state  wide  prohibition  is  not  practicable.  I  have  no  reason 
to  doubt  from  what  I  know  of  the  circumstances,  that  state  wide  pro- 
hibition is  both  practicable  and  desirable  in  Texas.44 

Unfortunately,  this  letter  was  used  against  him  by  wet  Republican 
newspapers  in  the  North.  His  first  political  manager,  William  F.  Me- 

148   /  THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

Combs,  had  to  try  to  disown  the  letter  as  a  trick  of  Wall  Street.  He  was 
unsuccessful.  The  wets  claimed  loudly  that  Wilson  supported  local 
option,  the  diys  that  he  was  for  state-wide  prohibition.  The  contro- 
versy became  so  unpleasant  that  Wilson  s  second  political  manager, 
Joseph  E.  Tumulty,  had  to  set  up  a  special  interview  in  1915  with  a 
wet  reporter  from  the  Louisville  Times.  In  this  interview,  Wilson 
wearily  said  to  Tumulty  that  he  did  not  know  how  he  came  to  write 
the  Texan  letter.  Tumulty  assured  the  reporter  that  Wilson  would  be 
able  to  explain  it  away  somehow;  there  was  very  little  he  could  not 
do  with  the  English  language. 

And  explain  it  away  Wilson  did,  in  an  open  letter  to  the  Louisville 
Times.  Wilson  wrote  that  the  first  letter  represented  his  real  convic- 
tions. He  had  only  meant  by  the  second  letter  that  he  was  not  self- 
confident  or  self-opinionated  enough  to  say  what  the  proper  course 
of  action  was,  either  in  Texas  or  in  any  other  state  where  he  did  not 
know  the  conditions.45  Wilson's  gloss  had  the  opposite  meaning  to  his 
original  text;  but  the  truth  of  the  matter  was  that  Wilson  had  returned 
to  his  original  convictions.  No  additional  dry  votes  were  worth  the 
fact  that  the  President  and  minister's  son  seemed  to  be  ready  to  fit  his 
convictions  to  his  political  advantage. 

During  Wilson's  first  term  as  President,  the  prohibition  issue  was 
little  bother  to  him.  In  1914,  the  Hobson  constitutional  amendment 
failed  to  get  the  necessary  two-thirds  vote  in  the  House  of  Representa- 
tives. The  issue  was  then  ingeniously  linked  with  that  of  a  woman- 
suffirage  amendment  in  the  House  Judiciary  Committee.  This  tactic 
of  the  wets  hamstrung  the  Southern  drys,  who  opposed  votes  for 
women  as  fanatically  as  they  supported  national  prohibition.  Wilson 
remained  neutral  during  this  time  and  did  not  use  his  influence  to 
separate  the  two  amendments.  The  separation  was  not  effected  until 

During  Wilson's  second  term  as  President,  the  Webb-Kenyon  Act, 
which  restricted  the  import  of  liquor  into  dry  states,  was  strengthened 
by  the  passage  of  the  Reed  Bone-dry  Amendment.  But  this  legislation 
represented  the  limit  of  prohibition  legislation  tolerable  to  Wilson's 
mentality.  Indeed,  after  war  was  declared  on  the  Central  European 
Powers,  Wilson  opposed  any  further  concessions  to  the  drys,  since  he 
believed  that  they  were  using  the  war  emergency  to  dry  up  the  country 
through  Congress.  In  his  opinion,  wartime  prohibition  was  not  in- 
tended to  save  for  men's  bodies  the  boasted  eleven  million  loaves  of 
bread  a  day  wasted  in  beer  production;46  it  was  intended  to  save  their 
souls,  which  were  not  the  concern  of  the  federal  government. 

Under  pressure  from  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  the  dry  majority 
in  Congress,  Wilson  approved  the  assorted  wartime  prohibition  meas- 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   149 

ures.  But  he  was  put  in  a  quandary  by  the  growth  of  agitation  against 
wartime  prohibition  after  the  Armistice,  particularly  on  the  part  of  the 
American  Federation  of  Labor.  On  May  20,  1919,  Wilson  cabled  a 
message  back  from  Paris  to  Congress,  recommending  that  the  ban  on 
the  making  of  beer  and  light  wines  be  lifted  until  the  Volstead  Act 
came  into  force  in  January,  1920.  He  was  disobeyed.  Tumulty  later 
warned  the  President  that  if  the  ban  was  not  lifted,  the  wets  might  not 
only  drink  up  all  the  bonded  whisky  in  the  United  States  but  also  turn 
against  him.  Pennsylvania  had  already  voted  to  legalize  weak  beer 
and  light  wines.  In  Tumulty's  opinion,  Wilson  should  legalize  light 
wines  and  beer  by  presidential  proclamation. 

But  Wilson  could  not  do  this.  If  he  did,  he  would  finally  brand  the 
Democrats  as  the  party  of  the  wets.  They  would  suffer  for  this  at  the 
polls  in  1920,  and  a  Democratic  defeat  would  bring  down  all  Wilson's 
plans  for  peace.  Thus  he  took  refuge  in  the  legally  sound  position  that 
wartime  prohibition  must  remain  in  force  until  the  Army  was  de- 
mobilized. Once  again,  Tumulty  claims,  Wilson  thought  of  devolving 
his  responsibility  by  asking  Congress  to  legalize  light  wines  and  beer, 
but  he  gave  up  the  idea  since  Congress  was  hostile  and  dry.47  Tumulty 
also  states  that  Wilson  gave  an  unnamed  and  trusted  friend  a  copy  of 
a  proposed  wet  plank,  favoring  the  repeal  of  the  Volstead  Act,  to  be 
presented  at  the  Democratic  convention  in  1920;  but  again  the  dry 
temper  of  the  delegates  caused  the  dropping  of  the  plan.48  The  dry 
Senator  Carter  Glass,  chairman  of  the  Committee  on  Resolutions,  had 
already  told  Wilson  that  it  would  be  impossible  to  present  the  plank. 
And  Wilson  was  always  too  politic  to  press  any  controversy  beyond 
the  bounds  of  compromise,  except  for  the  matter  of  the  League  of 
Nations.  When  reporter  Seibold,  of  the  New  York  World,  tried  to 
pump  him  on  the  three  explosive  topics  of  prohibition,  women,  and 
William  Jennings  Bryan,  Wilson  said  the  same  words  about  each,  that 
he  had  great  confidence  in  the  sober  judgment  of  the  leaders  of  the 
Democratic  party  at  San  Francisco. 

James  M.  Cox  was  nominated  by  the  Democrats  as  presidential 
timber.  He  fought  the  campaign  of  1920  as  the  heir  of  Woodrow 
Wilson.  Out  of  admiration  for  Wilson's  courage,  Cox  supported  the 
League  of  Nations.  It  was  an  act  of  admirable  loyalty,  but  of  stupid 
politics.  Cox's  only  hope  was  to  disassociate  himself  from  the  President, 
who  was  unfairly  blamed  with  driving  America  into  war  and  national 
prohibition.  Cox  was  badly  beaten  by  the  charming  and  affable  War- 
ren Harding,  whose  "big,  bow-wow  style  of  oratory"  was  well  des- 
cribed by  the  dry  Democrat  McAdoo  as  "an  army  of  pompous  phrases 
moving  over  the  landscape  in  search  of  an  idea.'*49 

Wilson  settled  down  to  die;  his  League  of  Nations  was  dying  too. 

150   /THE    ROOTS     OF     PROHIBITION 

He  became  more  autocratic,  more  conscious  that  he  was  alone  and 
right.  For  the  1924  Democratic  convention,  he  hardened  his  position 
on  prohibition,  circulating  a  plank  among  his  friends  which  stated 
categorically,  "The  Eighteenth  Amendment  should  remain  unchanged. 
And  the  Volstead  Act  should  remain  unchanged/'50  He  wanted  the 
federal  government,  however,  to  be  merely  responsible  for  preventing 
interstate  commerce  in  liquor.  This  had  been  the  limit  of  their  respon- 
sibility in  1917,  and  could  be  justified  by  reference  to  the  Constitution. 
What  had  been  given  to  the  federal  government  under  his  own  rule 
was  well  given.  More  was  evil.  Moreover,  he  had  been  brought  up  in 
the  South,  where  states'  rights  were  jealously  guarded  in  domestic 
affairs.  Of  course,  Wilson's  solution  left  the  main  burden  of  enforce- 
ment on  the  state  governments,  and  would  have  meant  practical 
nullification  in  wet  states.  But,  at  least,  under  this  plan  the  evils  of 
prohibition  enforcement  would  have  been  restricted.  The  plank  was, 
however,  considered  dangerous  and  was  never  presented. 

Wilson,  a  temperate  man,  miscalculated  badly  on  the  one  thing 
which  he  wanted  above  all.  He  might  have  compromised  with  Senator 
Lodge  and  preached  the  United  States  into  the  League  of  Nations  if 
he  had  given  his  enemies  a  few  concessions.  But,  against  the  advice 
of  Colonel  House  and  other  friends  of  the  League,  he  categorically 
refused  to  accept  the  Senate's  fourteen  reservations  concerning  the 
Versailles  Treaty,  even  though  he  had  allowed  his  Fourteen  Points 
to  be  whittled  away  at  Versailles  itself.  He  had  become  as  die-hard  as 
a  professed  prohibitionist.  On  the  question  of  the  League  of  Nations, 
Wilson  was  more  inflexible  than  the  most  dedicated  leader  of  the 
Anti-Saloon  League. 

Wilson  became  the  victim  of  that  moral  rigidity  which  he  deplored 
in  the  dry  extremists  and  which  he  increasingly  came  to  share  with 
them  over  the  matter  of  prohibition.51  Like  Plato,  he  became  more 
authoritarian  as  he  aged.  Like  Plato,  he  ended  by  approving  of  severe 
moral  legislation  enacted  in  the  laws  of  states.  Like  Plato,  he  died 
disappointed,  with  his  scheme  for  the  ordered  government  of  society 
defeated,  and  his  visionary  Republic  only  a  vision. 

Whatever  the  temperament  and  background  of  prominent  politi- 
cians in  the  opening  years  of  this  century,  they  were  forced  into  an 
extreme  position  by  the  extreme  measure  of  the  national  prohibition 
of  the  liquor  trade.  There  was  no  escape  for  the  wary  political  animal. 
Silence  on  the  issue  was  taken  to  be  antagonism  to  the  views  of  the 
questioner,  whether  he  was  wet  or  dry.  Bryan's  country  background 
or  Taft's  city  background  might  put  them  on  opposite  sides  of  the  dry 
question  in  their  personal  sympathies.  But  they  were  political  beings 

TRIMMING    FOR    THE    WHITE    HOUSE/   151 

first  and  reformers  second.  Their  political  ambition  and  office  dictated 
their  parallel  silence,  equivocation,  moderate  support,  and  eventual 
wholehearted  backing  of  the  prohibitionists. 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  relied  on  the  necessary  malleability  of  the 
politician  to  push  its  measures  through  both  houses  of  Congress  and 
through  the  legislatures  of  forty-six  states.  The  weathercock  tendencies 
which  the  Presidents  and  presidential  aspirants  had  shown  individually 
were  shown  collectively  by  the  legislative  representatives  of  the  people. 
Indeed,  the  people  themselves  shifted  back  and  forth  on  the  issue, 
under  the  propaganda  and  prodding  of  the  drys.  But  it  is  in  their  pres- 
sure on  the  lawmakers  of  America  that  the  drys  showed  their  full  genius 
for  political  manipulation.  For  only  from  the  lawmakers  of  America 
could  they  secure  national  prohibition  by  the  Eighteenth  Amendment 
to  the  Constitution  and  by  the  Volstead  Act. 



The  Turncoat  Congress 

No  caterpillar  ever  crawled  into  its  cocoon  and  came  out 
so  changed  as  came  this  drink  question  out  of  Congress.  It 
went  in  temperance  and  came  out  prohibition.  It  went  in 
license  and  came  out  enforcement.  It  went  in  personal 
choice  and  came  out  a  national  mandate.  It  went  in  an 
individual  right  and  came  out  a  social  responsibility.  It 
went  in  a  brewer  and  barkeeper  and  came  out  a  bootlegger 
and  a  kitchen  still.  It  went  in  local  option  and  came  out  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment. 


Booze  an'  iloquence  has  both  passed  out  iv  our  public 
life.  ...  A  statesman  wud  no  more  be  seen  goin'  into  a 
saloon  thin  he  wud  into  a  meetin'  iv  th'  Anti-Semitic 
league.  Th'  imprissyon  he  thries  to  give  is  that  th'  sight  iv 
a  bock  beer  sign  makes  him  faint  with  horror,  an'  that  he's 
stopped  atin*  bread  because  there's  a  certain  amount  iv 
alcohol  concealed  in  it.  He  wishes  to  brand  as  a  calumny 
th'  statement  that  his  wife  uses  an  alcohol  lamp  to  heat  her 
curlin'  irns.  Ivry  statesman  in  this  broad  land  is  in  danger 
iv  gettin'  wather-logged  because  whiniver  he  sees  a  possible 
vote  in  sight  he  yells  f'r  a  pitcher  iv  ice  wather  an'  dumps 
into  himsilf  a  basin  iv  that  noble  flooid  that  in  th'  more 
rugged  days  iv  th'  republic  was  on'y  used  to  put  out  fires 
an*  sprinkle  th'  lawn. 


LIQUOR  WAS  a  power  in  Congress  before  prohibition  was.  The 
fondness  of  Washington  legislators  for  the  bottle  was  supplemented 
by  the  lobby  of  the  liquor  trade.  The  Internal  Revenue  Act  of  1862 
put  a  license  fee  of  twenty  dollars  on  retail  liquor  dealers  and  a  tax 
of  one  dollar  a  barrel  on  beer  and  twenty  cents  a  gallon  on  spirits.  The 
drys  always  accused  this  act,  signed  by  Abraham  Lincoln  himself,  of 
making  an  evil  traffic  legitimate  and  of  corrupting  politics  for  half  a 
century.  However  true  this  accusation,  it  is  undeniable  that  the  United 
States  Brewers'  Association  was  formed  in  the  same  year.  The  object 



of  the  association  was  to  prosecute  its  interests  "vigorously  and  ener- 
getically*' before  the  legislative  and  executive  branches  of  the  nation 
and  to  defeat  the  maneuvers  of  the  temperance  party.1  After  less  than 
a  year  of  pressure,  the  Association  managed  to  secure  a  cut  in  the  beer 
tax  to  sixty  cents  a  barrel.  By  1866,  a  permanent  committee  had  been 
set  up  at  Washington,  on  such  cordial  terms  with  the  Commissioner 
of  Internal  Revenue  that  it  helped  to  revise  the  Federal  Excise  Tax 
Law  of  that  year. 

Other  organizations  were  also  set  up  to  exert  pressure  at  Washing- 
ton on  behalf  of  the  liquor  trade.  There  was  the  National  Wholesale 
Liquor  Dealers'  Association,  the  National  Retail  Liquor  Dealers*  Asso- 
ciation, the  National  Association  of  Wine  and  Spirit  Representatives, 
the  United  States  Manufacturers'  and  Merchants'  Association,  and 
various  other  pressure  groups,  often  misnamed  civic  or  liberty  leagues. 
These  associations,  although  they  were  mainly  concerned  with  influ- 
encing Congress,  also  aimed  to  secure  the  elections  of  sympathetic 
Congressmen.  A  resolution  of  the  National  Brewers'  and  Distillers' 
Association  stated  in  1882  that  it  was  pledged  to  work  harmoniously 
and  assiduously  at  the  ballot  box  against  any  party  which  favored  a 
prohibition  amendment  to  the  Constitution.2  In  New  York  the  follow- 
ing year,  the  local  brewers  employed  a  technique  which  would  have 
defeated  the  drys  in  perpetuity,  if  it  had  been  properly  exploited;  they 
asked  all  political  candidates  where  they  stood  on  temperance  matters 
and  fought  the  silent  along  with  the  drys  at  the  polls.3 

The  scandals  caused  by  the  connection  of  the  liquor  trade  and  the 
politicians  were  nasty  and  frequent.  As  Mr.  Dooley  knew,  the  friend- 
ship of  the  great  was  worse  than  their  enmity.4  The  exposure  of  the 
Whisky  Ring  under  President  Grant,  of  the  Whisky  Trust  in  1887,  and 
of  the  conspiracies  of  the  brewers  in  Texas  elections  showed  the  politi- 
cal skulduggery  of  the  liquor  trade.  The  aim  of  the  trade  to  control 
Congress,  even  if  it  lost  the  support  of  the  majority  of  Americans,  was 
manifest.  A  final  damning  indictment  of  the  brewers  was  reported  to 
the  Senate  in  1919.  The  report  disclosed  that  the  brewers  had  bought 
large  sections  of  the  press,  had  influenced  campaigns,  had  exacted 
pledges  from  candidates  prior  to  election,  had  boycotted  the  goods  of 
their  enemies,  had  formed  their  own  secret  political  organization,  had 
subsidized  the  banned  German-American  Alliance,  "many  of  the  mem- 
bership of  which  were  disloyal  and  unpatriotic,"  had  formed  a  secret 
agreement  with  the  distillers  to  split  political  expenses,  and  had  done 
their  utmost  to  subvert  the  processes  of  democracy.5  This  disclosure 
coincided  with  the  passage  of  the  Volstead  Act  through  the  Senate, 
and  was  the  final  nail  in  the  coffin  of  the  liquor  trade. 

With  such  powerful  opponents  behind  the  scenes  in  Washington, 


the  diys  had  to  organize  a  strong  lobby  of  their  own.  Although  the  first 
Congressional  Temperance  Society  was  begun  by  the  Reverend  Justin 
Edwards  in  1833,  and  eight  abortive  attempts  to  pass  a  national  pro- 
hibition amendment  were  made  by  Senators  Blair  and  Plumb  be- 
tween 1876  and  1885,  no  strong  political  pressure  was  exerted  by  the 
drys  in  the  national  capital  until  1899.  In  that  year,  the  first  legislative 
superintendent  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  Edwin  C.  Dinwiddie,  ar- 
rived in  Washington.  After  a  period  of  trial  and  error,  the  political 
power  and  expertise  of  the  League  grew,  and  Congress  leaped  to  do 
its  bidding.6  For  twenty  years  after  1913,  the  League  lobby  under 
Dinwiddie  and  his  successor,  Wayne  B.  Wheeler,  was  the  most  power- 
ful and  successful  reform  lobby  in  Washington. 

The  first  major  triumph  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  was  the  passage 
of  the  Webb-Kenyon  Law  in  1913.  The  law  used  the  federal  power  in 
interstate  commerce  to  prevent  liquor  dealers  from  sending  liquor  in 
packages  into  dry  states.  Before  the  passage  of  the  law,  a  mail-order 
liquor  business  had  flourished  in  dry  states,  using  such  advertising 
slogans  as  "Uncle  Sam  Is  Our  Partner/'7  Although  the  bill  was  bitterly 
denounced  in  Congress  as  the  work  of  "a  few  rabid,  misguided,  pro- 
fessional prohibitionists/'  it  was  passed  over  Taft's  veto  by  a  vote  of 
63  to  21  in  the  Senate  and  246  to  95  in  the  House  of  Representatives.8 
All  but  two  Senators  of  the  dry  majority  came  from  the  South  and 
West,  where  the  dry  cause  was  strong.  Although  the  wets  hoped  that 
the  Supreme  Court  would  declare  the  measure  unconstitutional,  they 
were  forced  to  concede  that  the  drys  had  won  a  great  victory.  It  was 
"the  impressive  fact  that  in  the  face  of  the  united  effort  of  all  branches 
of  the  alcoholic  liquor  trade,  the  National  Congress  voted  for  the  bill."9 
Four  years  later,  the  Supreme  Court  upheld  the  law.10 

The  first  classic  debate  on  the  subject  of  national  prohibition  came 
with  the  vote  on  the  Hobson  resolution  in  the  House  on  December  22, 
1914.  The  resolution  called  for  a  national  prohibition  amendment  to 
the  Constitution.  Kelly,  of  Pennsylvania,  opened  the  dry  case.  He  said 
that  the  drys  were  the  real  friends  of  liberty  —  not  the  false  personal 
liberty  which  meant  license  to  do  wrong.  They  would  grant  every 
liberty  save  that  of  injuring  the  rights  of  others.  Congress  should  pass 
the  Hobson  resolution  because  of  the  very  forces  against  it: 

...  the  allied  powers  that  prey,  the  vultures  of  vice,  the  corrupt 
combinations  of  politics,  the  grafters  and  gangsters,  the  parasites  that 
clothe  themselves  in  the  proceeds  of  woman's  shame,  the  inhuman 
ones  that  bathe  themselves  in  the  tears  of  little  children,  the  wastrels 
who  wreck  and  ruin  material  things  while  they  contaminate  childhood, 
debauch  youth,  and  crush  manhood;  the  plunder-laden  ones  who  fat- 
ten themselves  upon  the  misery  and  want  and  woe  that  their  own 

THE    TURNCOAT    CONGRESS   /   155 

greed  has  created,  the  Hessians  in  the  black-bannered  troop  whose  line 
of  march  is  over  wrecked  homes  and  broken  hearts  and  ruined  lives. 

Hobson  himself  followed  up  by  condemning  the  alcohol  poison 
which  attacked  "the  tender  tissues  associated  with  reproduction  both 
in  male  and  female/'  Hulings,  of  Pennsylvania,  and  Tribble,  of  Geor- 
gia, said  that  the  resolution  was  not  an  attack  on  states'  rights  but  a 
confirmation  of  them;  for  the  constitutional  amendment  would  be  re- 
ferred to  the  legislatures  of  the  various  states.  Garrett,  of  Texas,  re- 
gretted the  inevitable  progress  of  boys  from  high-class  beer  gardens 
to  the  doggery.  Lindquist,  of  Michigan,  called  for  the  support  of 
patriots;  zeppelins,  submarines,  bombs,  and  siege  guns  were  not  the 
only  things  that  could  destroy  a  nation;  the  treasonable  conspiracy  of 
the  liquor  trade  had  already  captured  the  great  cities  of  America,  and 
was  devastating  the  land  and  robbing  it  of  its  manhood.  And  Hobson 
concluded  with  his  famous  speech  on  "Alcohol,  the  Great  Destroyer." 

Cantrill,  of  Kentucky,  began  the  defense  of  the  wets.  He  denied  the 
capacity  of  national  prohibition  to  prohibit.  The  Hobson  resolution 
should  really  be  called  "a  resolution  legalizing  the  unlimited  manu- 
facture of  intoxicating  liquor  without  taxation."  Underwood,  of  Ala- 
bama, spoke  up  for  the  fundamental  beliefs  of  the  Republic,  for  indi- 
vidual liberty,  states*  rights,  and  the  rights  of  property.  He  denied  that 
the  drys  represented  the  forces  of  temperance,  because  all  men  be- 
lieved in  temperance;  they  were  a  mere  faction  "that  would  tear  down 
the  very  fabric  of  the  Government  itself  and  destroy  the  foundation 
stones  on  which  it  rests."  Kahn,  of  California,  also  pointed  out  that 
temperance  applied  to  all  things  in  life,  not  only  to  liquor.  Prohibition 
generally  resulted  in  making  men  liars,  sneaks,  and  hypocrites.  If  men 
wanted  liquor,  they  could  invariably  get  it.  "We  are  trying  to  regulate 
all  human  conduct  by  laws,  laws,  laws.  Efforts  of  that  character  are  as 
old  as  the  world.  And  they  have  invariably  resulted  in  failure." 

Vollmer,  of  Iowa,  scoffed  at  the  great  American  superstition,  "belief 
in  the  miraculous  potency  of  the  magical  formulae:  Be  it  resolved, 
and  Be  it  enacted."  He  stood  beside  George  Washington,  the  brewer; 
Thomas  Jefferson,  the  distiller;  Abraham  Lincoln,  die  saloonkeeper; 
and  Jesus  Christ  of  Nazareth,  who  had  turned  water  into  wine.  For 
him,  the  policeman's  club  was  not  a  moral  agent;  morality  which  was 
not  self-imposed  was  not  morality.  Vicious  propensities  that  could  not 
find  an  outlet  in  liquor  would  find  another;  they  would  not  be  pro- 
hibited. Johnson,  of  Kentucky,  said  that  he  was  not  concerned  with 
the  merits  of  prohibition,  but  with  its  economic  effects.  The  measure 
would  destroy  property  worth  billions  of  dollars,  while  the  wets  would 
have  to  pay  increased  taxes  to  make  up  the  lost  revenue.  Moreover,  the 

156  /   THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

sacred  American  principle  of  home  rule  would  be  attacked.  Finally, 
Morrison,  of  Indiana,  objected  that  the  House  was  being  stampeded 
by  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  was  being  forced  to  reform  under  fire. 
Prohibition,  even  if  put  into  the  Constitution,  could  never  be  enforced, 
when  Sears,  Roebuck  catalogues  were  advertising  home  distilling  kits 
for  less  than  five  dollars  an  outfit.11 

At  the  close  of  the  debate,  the  vote  was  taken.  The  Hobson  resolu- 
tion was  passed  by  197  votes  to  190.  Since  a  two-thirds  majority  was 
necessary  for  the  passage  of  a  constitutional  amendment,  the  resolu- 
tion failed.  The  drys,  however,  had  given  a  further  demonstration  of 
their  growing  power.  And,  significantly,  the  word  "saloon"  was  never 
mentioned  in  the  debate  except  in  a  derogatory  sense.  Indeed,  Colonel 
Gilmore  admitted  in  Bonfort's  Wine  and  Spirit  Circular  that  the  saloon 
was  now  doomed.12 

The  widespread  prohibition  legislation  of  the  powers  engaged  in  the 
Great  War  and  the  certainty  that  America  would  enter  that  war  gave 
the  drys  a  strong  lever.  When  Europe  was  starving,  how  could  America 
in  God's  name  turn  its  grain  into  sinful  drink?  In  1917,  under  the 
pressure  of  patriotism,  Congress  passed  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  to 
the  Constitution.  It  also  passed  other  laws  giving  prohibition  to  Alaska 
and  Puerto  Rico,  setting  up  dry  zones  around  Army  camps  and  Naval 
bases,  and  banning  soldiers  and  sailors  from  all  liquor.18  In  addition, 
three  further  laws  were  passed,  which  showed  the  political  trafficking 
of  both  wets  and  drys  at  their  worst 

The  first  of  these  three  laws  was  the  Reed  Bone-dry  Amendment  to 
a  bill  to  exclude  liquor  advertisements  from  the  mails.  Senator  Reed, 
of  Missouri,  was  a  dripping  wet;  but  he  decided  to  confound  the 
cautious  Anti-Saloon  League  lobby  by  making  it  an  offense  to  use  im- 
ported liquor  in  dry  territory,  as  well  as  to  transport  or  sell  it.  The  use 
of  imported  liquor  had  not  been  forbidden  by  the  Webb-Kenyon  Law. 
The  League  was  caught  napping.  Its  chief  lobbyist,  Dinwiddie,  ad- 
vised against  voting  for  Reed's  amendment;  but  Congress,  voting  freely 
for  the  first  time  for  some  years,  passed  the  amendment,  as  much  to 
show  their  independence  of  the  League  as  to  demonstrate  their  belief 
in  the  tricks  of  Senator  Reed.  The  League  then  claimed  credit  for  the 
measure.  Indeed,  the  position  of  Reed  and  the  wets  was  worsened  by 
such  a  stringent  law,  especially  as  its  provisions  caused  no  revulsion  of 
moderate  support  away  from  the  dry  cause. 

The  second  law  was  the  District  of  Columbia  Prohibition  Law, 
which  banned  the  legal  liquor  trade  in  the  capital.  The  drys  refused 
to  hold  a  referendum  on  this  matter  for  fear  of  the  popular  vote  going 
against  them.  Moreover,  despite  the  Reed  Bone-dry  Amendment,  the 


law  only  prohibited  the  traffic  in  liquor,  not  its  use  by  members  of 
Congress  and  others.14 

The  third  law  passed  in  1917  was  a  prohibition  clause  in  the  Food 
Control  Bill.  The  drys  were  holding  up  this  vital  war  measure  in  Con- 
gress by  threatening  to  tack  onto  it  various  clauses  forbidding  food  to 
be  made  into  alcohol  for  drinking  purposes.  In  fact,  the  drys  were  so 
insistent  that  prohibition  was  necessary  to  win  the  war  that  Woodrow 
Wilson  was  forced  to  write  a  letter  to  Bishop  James  Cannon,  Jr.,  who 
was  head  of  the  legislative  committee  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League.  He 
appealed  to  the  Bishop's  patriotism:  "I  regard  the  immediate  passage 
of  the  [Food]  bill  as  of  vital  consequence  to  the  safety  and  defense  of 
the  nation.  Time  is  of  the  essence."  Cannon  replied  the  next  day  that 
the  League  would  compromise.  If  the  manufacture  of  distilled  spirits 
should  be  forbidden,  the  President  could  stop  the  supply  of  food  to 
the  brewers  and  winemakers  at  his  own  discretion.  Wilson  replied  that 
he  appreciated  the  Anti-Saloon  League's  attitude,  which  was  "a  very 
admirable  proof  of  their  patriotic  motives.*15 

Wilson,  however,  failed  to  use  his  discretionary  powers,  and  re- 
ceived a  rebuke  from  the  Anti-Saloon  League.  Its  legislative  committee 
wrote  to  him  on  April  1, 1918,  pointing  out  that: 

.  .  .  the  people  have  been  requested  to  have  headess  days,  meatless 
days,  wheatless  days  and  to  eliminate  waste  in  every  possible  way,  and 
yet  the  breweries  and  saloons  of  the  country  continue  to  waste  food- 
stuffs, fuel  and  man-power  and  to  impair  the  efficiency  of  labor  in  the 
mines,  factories  and  even  in  munition  plants  near  which  saloons  are 

After  hearing  nothing  from  Wilson  and  getting  nowhere  with  him 
in  a  conference  at  the  White  House,  the  League  used  the  same  device 
and  tacked  total  wartime  prohibition  onto  the  Agricultural  Appropri- 
ation Bill.  All  use  of  foods  in  the  making  of  spirits,  beer,  and  wine  was 
banned.  One  report  said  that  Wilson  felt  so  strongly  about  the  matter 
that  he  would  have  vetoed  the  prohibition  measure,  if  he  could  have 
got  the  rest  of  the  bill  through  in  any  other  way.17  But  he  could  not. 
Wartime  prohibition  was  passed  by  Congress.  The  manufacture  of 
liquor  in  the  United  States  was  legally  prohibited  after  June  30,  1919, 
unless  demobilization  were  to  be  completed  before  that  date. 

A  majority  in  Congress  seemed  to  be  inspired  by  the  same  false 
logic  that  made  Senator  Myers,  of  Montana,  declare,  "There  is  nothing 
to  understand  except  one  thing,  and  that  is  that  bread  will  help  us  win 
this  war  more  than  whisky.  ITiat  is  the  only  thing  that  it  is  necessary 
to  understand."18  In  face  of  such  implacable  reasoning,  Wilson  had  to 
act.  Dry  pressure  was  too  great.  On  Colonel  House's  advice,  he  did  not 

158  /   THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

veto  the  Agricultural  Appropriation  Bill.  On  September  16,  he  issued  a 
proclamation  that  forbade  the  use  of  food  in  making  beer.  But  he  did 
not  exercise  the  authority  given  him  by  the  Agricultural  Appropriation 
Bill  to  declare  "dry  zones"  at  once  in  strategical  mining  and  industrial 
areas.  He  still  supported  the  flow  of  such  strong  drink  as  could  be  got 
for  the  factory  workers.  Like  any  good  democrat,  he  was  conscious  of 
the  need  not  to  offend  too  much  or  too  many.  This  meant  the  simul- 
taneous gift  of  sops  to  the  wets  and  sponges  to  the  drys. 


THE  WILSON  administration  was  often  blamed  for  the  passage  through 
Congress  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the  Volstead  Act.  Actu- 
ally, Wilson  had  nothing  to  do  with  these  measures.  They  were  put 
through,  despite  the  urgency  of  the  war,  by  the  power  of  the  dry  lobby 
in  Congress.  At  the  same  time  that  the  Anti-Saloon  League  was  helping 
to  defeat  the  Kaiser  by  sobering  up  America,  it  was  also  preparing  to 
win  the  peace  by  making  a  land  fit  for  heroes  to  live  in.  Its  remedy 
for  demobilization  and  the  future  was  national  prohibition. 

Professor  Irving  Fisher,  of  Yale,  a  notable  dry  apologist  and  statis- 
tician, revealed  that  the  Anti-Saloon  League  knew  some  of  the  wet 
Senators  were  psychologically  prepared  to  accept  national  prohibition 
after  the  preliminary  failure  of  the  war  prohibition  measure  in  the 
Food  Control  Bill.  It  is  even  possible  that  the  League  made  a  deal  with 
them.19  However  that  was,  Fisher  wrote  that  the  League  "very  astutely 
took  advantage  of  the  situation  to  propose  the  act  submitting  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  ...  It  was  easy  even  for  wet  Senators  to  let 
this  act  pass,  on  the  theory  that  it  did  not  really  enact  Prohibition,  but 
merely  submitted  it  to  the  States."  Then,  once  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment was  safely  through  Congress,  wartime  prohibition  was  reintro- 
duced  and  passed,  "as  a  means  of  filling  in  the  gap  between  the  adop- 
tion of  Constitutional  Prohibition  and  its  taking  effect.  This  was  pretty 
hard  on  the  brewers."20  In  other  words,  by  playing  on  the  urge  of 
Congress  to  escape  responsibility  for  national  prohibition,  and  by 
yielding  ground  on  wartime  prohibition  only  to  revive  it  again  once 
peacetime  prohibition  had  passed  Congress,  the  dry  lobby  showed 
itself  guilty  of  political  genius  and  bad  faith. 

During  the  debate  on  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  in  the  Senate 
and  the  House,  various  deals  were  made  between  the  wets  and  the 
drys.  As  Wheeler  put  it,  "we  traded  jackknives  with  them."21  The  will- 
ing and  mindless  Senator  Harding,  of  Ohio,  was  the  go-between.  In 
return  for  a  year's  grace  for  the  liquor  trade  to  wind  up  its  affairs 
after  possible  ratification  of  the  amendment  by  the  states,  the  wets 

THE    TURNCOAT    CONGRESS   /   159 

agreed  to  put  a  time  limit  of  six,  and  then  seven,  years  on  ratification. 
With  this  limit,  the  wets  in  Congress  were  lulled  into  a  sense  of  false 
security.  Thirty-six  states  had  to  ratify  the  amendment  for  it  to  become 
part  of  the  Constitution.  The  wets  counted  on  holding  at  least  thirteen 
state  legislatures.  Only  twenty-seven  states  had  passed  state  prohibi- 
tion laws.  The  drys  would  have  to  gain  nine  more  for  their  side,  as 
well  as  convincing  the  legislatures  of  the  twenty-seven  that  national 
prohibition  was  necessary.  The  Eighteenth  Amendment  appeared  as  a 
heaven-sent  opportunity  for  wet  Senators  to  wash  their  hands  of  the 
whole  affair  and  to  be  left  in  peace  at  the  polls  by  the  Anti-Saloon 

In  the  debate  on  the  amendment  in  the  Senate,  Harding  summed 
up  in  his  heartfelt  and  confused  way  the  sentiments  of  many  middle- 
of-the-road  Senators.  He  said  that  he  was  not  a  prohibitionist  and  had 
never  pretended  to  be,  although  he  did  claim  to  be  a  temperance  man. 
He  did  not  see  prohibition  as  a  great  moral  question,  but  he  did  see 
its  ethical  and  economic  side.  The  need  for  concord  in  wartime  and 
the  fact  prohibition  would  never  be  effective  made  him  think  that  the 
timing  of  the  proposed  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  'unwise,  im- 
prudent, and  inconsiderate";  but  he  would  vote  for  it,  since  he  was  fed 
up  with  seeing  every  politician  measured  by  the  wet  and  dry  yard- 
stick. It  was  high  time  for  the  question  to  be  settled.  In  this  way,  the 
people,  through  their  state  legislatures,  would  settle  the  issue.  Al- 
though he  preferred  that  compensation  be  paid  to  the  breweries,  he 
would  not  insist  on  this  clause.22  And  yet  Harding,  after  declaring 
himself  for  the  drys,  was  one  of  only  four  Senators  who  voted  for 
Hardwick's  attempt  to  wreck  the  passage  of  the  amendment  by  making 
it  illegal  to  purchase  and  use  liquor,  as  well  as  to  manufacture,  sell, 
or  transport  it 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  lobby,  which  did  much  to  write  the  Eight- 
eenth Amendment,  was  careful  to  pussyfoot  on  the  question  of  the 
use  of  liquor,  as  they  had  done  with  the  Webb-Kenyon  Law  and  with 
the  District  of  Columbia  Prohibition  Act.  They  wanted  to  punish  mak- 
ers and  sellers  of  liquor,  not  respectable  drinkers.  Moreover,  they  could 
not  afford  to  alienate  the  majority  of  the  Senators,  who  were  drinkers. 
They  had  to  represent  the  measure  as  an  economic  and  patriotic  neces- 
sity. It  was  no  reflection  on  the  personal  habits  of  the  legislators  of  the 
nation.  It  was  the  liquor  trade  that  did  evil,  not  those  decent  people 
who  supported  the  trade.  In  this  way,  the  League  could  and  did  gain 
moderate  support  in  both  Senate  and  House,  especially  as  the  black- 
mail of  the  open  ballot  threatened  retribution  at  the  polls  for  the  foes 
of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment. 

The  extreme  drys  in  the  Senate  ignored  the  careful  approach  of  the 

160  /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

League  and  the  objections  of  moderates  such  as  Norris  to  "this  ill- 
adviled  attempt"28  Sheppard,  of  Texas,  set  the  tone  of  the  Senate 
debate  on  the  amendment  with  a  full-blooded  denunciation  of  alcohol 
as  the  cause  of  venereal  disease,  blighted  babies,  fallen  women,  and 
waste  to  the  toiling  millions.  Kenyon,  of  Iowa,  shook  blood  out  of  the 
flag  with  his  unanswered  queries,  "If  liquor  is  a  bad  thing  for  the  boys 
in  the  trenches,  why  is  it  a  good  thing  for  those  at  home?  When  they 
are  willing  to  die  for  us,  should  we  not  be  willing  to  go  dry  for  them?" 
Jones,  of  Washington,  denied  the  brewers'  charges  that  prohibition 
would  produce  anger,  resentment,  and  disaffection  among  millions  as 
"a  base  libel  on  American  workers,"  who  were  "as  loyal  and  patriotic 
a  class  as  we  have."  Intelligent  labor  knew  that  prohibition  was  being 
passed  for  its  benefit.  Moreover,  those  opposed  to  prohibition  would 
live  to  bless  prohibition.  Ashurst,  of  Arizona,  saw  the  amendment  as 
a  great  referendum  to  the  states.  Sherman,  of  Illinois,  remembered 
his  many  liberal  friends  of  thirty  years  past  who  had  been  killed  off  by 
the  saloons  and  had  died  "with  strange  complaints,  seeing  strange 
things  in  the  air  and  hearing  strange  voices/'  Kirby,  of  Arkansas,  did 
not  doubt  that  through  the  ages  one  increasing  purpose  ran.  And 
Myers,  of  Montana,  rounded  off  the  dry  case  with  his  declaration  that 
the  world  was  steadily  becoming  better.  He  suggested  that  the  mo- 
mentous day  when  the  Senate  passed  the  amendment  should  be  ob- 
served as  another  Fourth  of  July,  a  second  Declaration  of  Independ- 

The  drys  could  afford  rhetoric,  for  they  were  certain  that  their  cause 
was  won.  But  the  wets  were  forced  to  appeal  to  reason,  for  they  knew 
that  they  had  lost.  Underwood,  of  Alabama,  warned  the  Senate  that 
the  tyranny  of  corruption  could  be  replaced  by  the  subtler,  less 
tangible,  more  enduring  tyranny  of  reform.  Moreover,  the  propaganda 
of  the  drys  that  Congress  should  pass  its  responsibility  on  to  the  states 
was  subversive  of  die  spirit  of  republican  government.  Lodge,  of 
Massachusetts,  gave  a  prophetic  denunciation  of  the  impossibility  of 
enforcing  national  prohibition.  Without  a  prepared  public  sentiment, 
all  prohibition  could  hope  to  effect  was  the  destruction  of  every  con- 
trol on  the  liquor  traffic.  People  would  resent  the  dry  law  as  a  gross 
and  tyrannical  interference  with  personal  liberty.  Respect  for  justice 
would  vanish.  "Where  large  masses  of  the  people  would  consider  it 
even  meritorious  —  at  least  quite  venial  —  to  evade  and  break  the  law, 
the  law  would  inevitably  be  broken  constantly  and  in  a  large  and 
effective  way."  Lodge  doubted  that  there  could  be  an  army  large 
enough  to  enforce  absolute  prohibition.  The  measure  was  "the  worst 
thing  that  could  be  done  to  advance  temperance  and  total  abstinence 

THE    TURNCOAT    CONGRESS   /   161 

among  the  people/*  But  the  wet  protests  were  unavailing.  The  amend- 
ment passed  the  Senate  by  a  vote  of  65  to  20.24 

One  new  idea  came  out  of  the  House  debate  on  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment,  and  a  legion  of  old  ideas.  While  the  Senate's  version  of 
the  amendment  had  provided  for  the  prohibition  of  the  manufacture, 
sale,  or  transportation  of  intoxicating  liquors,  Congressman  Webb 
introduced  the  phrase,  "the  Congress  and  the  several  States  shall  have 
concurrent  power  to  enforce  this  article  by  appropriate  legislation." 
By  his  term  "concurrent  power,"  Webb  meant  to  protect  states'  rights, 
for  "nobody  desires  that  the  Federal  Congress  shall  take  away  from 
the  various  States  the  right  to  enforce  the  prohibition  laws  of  those 
States."  He  also  intended  that  the  states  should  take  much  of  the 
burden  off  the  federal  government  in  law  enforcement.  "We  do  not 
want  10,000  Federal  officers,  with  all  the  expense  of  salaries,  going 
over  the  country  enforcing  these  laws  when  the  States  have  their  own 
officers  to  do  so  and  are  willing  to  do  so."  In  answer  to  questions, 
Webb  denied  that  there  would  be  a  conflict  of  jurisdiction  between 
state  and  federal  courts.  A  man  ought  not  to  be  tried  twice  for  the 
same  offense.  "One  punishment  ought  to  be  sufficient."  He  said  that 
he  was  not  afraid  to  trust  the  states  to  enforce  the  amendment.  "I  never 
saw  one  that  went  counter  to  the  United  States  Constitution,  or  whose 
law  officers  failed  to  enforce  the  law."  Yet,  whatever  Webb's  reasons, 
the  inclusion  of  the  term  "concurrent  power"  in  the  amendment  led  to 
a  myriad  of  later  legal  complications. 

Webb  also  referred  to  the  letter  which  Samuel  Gonipers,  head  of  the 
American  Federation  of  Labor,  had  written  to  the  newspapers  that 
morning,  December  17,  1917.  Gompers  had  complained  that  prohibi- 
tion would  throw  two  million  people  out  of  work;  it  was  also  a  class 
law  against  the  beer  of  the  workingman.  Webb  replied  that  the  jobs 
of  only  about  sixty  thousand  people  directly  connected  with  the  liquor 
trade  would  be  affected.  He  quoted  William  Jennings  Biyan,  that  it 
was  a  slander  to  intimate  that  the  great  laboring  classes  of  America 
measured  their  patriotism  by  the  quart  or  by  the  schooner. 

After  many  other  loyal  dry  appeals,  Robbins,  of  Pennsylvania,  re- 
minded the  House  that  there  were  three  constitutional  amendments 
pending,  those  of  prohibition  and  woman  suffrage  and  writing  the 
name  of  God  into  the  Constitution.  All  three  should  be  referred  to 
the  states,  for  vox  populi  vox  Dei.  Little,  of  Kansas,  raised  laughter 
when  he  referred  to  a  gentleman  from  "some  semi-civilized  foreign 
colony  in  New  York  City"  who  damned  prohibition  as  a  mere  reform 
from  "the  outlying  settlements."  According  to  Little,  the  outlying 
settlements  provided  all  the  reforms  that  New  York  City  would  ever 
get.  Norton,  of  North  Dakota,  would  have  gone  so  far  as  to  send  all 

162   /  THE    ROOTS    OF    PROHIBITION 

the  wet  spokesmen  to  the  front,  for  their  arguments  showed  them  to 
be  "marvelously  great  camouflage  artists." 

In  face  of  these  patriotic  and  rural  appeals,  the  wets  in  the  House 
countered  with  some  reason  and  some  wit.  Card,  of  Ohio,  said  that  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  would  substitute  "controversy  for  sure  settle- 
ment/' The  President  had  it  in  his  power  to  forbid  the  use  of  food  in 
making  liquor  by  proclamation.  Congress  should  not  waste  time  de- 
bating the  amendment,  but  should  help  the  President  in  winning  the 
war.  Magee,  of  New  York,  made  the  good  point  that  the  question  was 
"not  temperance  versus  intemperance,  but  whether  we  are  willing  to 
use  the  condition  of  war  as  the  chief  instrument  in  attempting  to  bring 
about  Nation-wide  prohibition  at  this  particular  time'9  In  fact,  no  grain 
would  be  conserved  by  the  passage  of  the  amendment,  since  it  prob- 
ably would  not  go  into  effect  until  the  war  was  over.  As  for  himself, 
he  had  no  brief  for  wets  or  drys,  but  a  brief  for  "his  country  first,  last, 
and  all  the  time/' 

Walsh,  of  Massachusetts,  observed  that  temperance  in  thought  and 
speech  was  sometimes  as  wise  as  temperance  in  the  use  of  food  and 
drink.  Small,  of  North  Carolina,  said  that  the  dry  effort  to  get  the 
House  to  pass  responsibility  for  the  measure  on  to  the  states  was 
pernicious,  for  "we  are  not  mere  automatons  to  register  the  will  of 
the  Anti-Saloon  League  or  any  other  organization  of  reformers/'  Slay- 
den,  of  Texas,  warned  that  a  constitutional  amendment  would  perpetu- 
ate the  tyranny  of  a  temporary  majority  in  the  country.  McArthur,  of 
Oregon,  said  that  the  League  would  be  better  off  spending  its  money 
on  educating  people  against  liquor,  while  Gordon,  of  Ohio,  resented 
the  attack  of  rural  morality  on  the  large  cities.  The  vote  on  the  amend- 
ment would,  anyway,  not  be  an  honest  one,  as  Gallagher,  of  New  York, 
pointed  out.  A  secret  ballot  would  show  the  drys  that  their  majorities 
came  from  fear.25 

When  the  vote  was  taken,  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  passed  the 
House  by  282  votes  to  128.  It  was  then  referred  to  the  states  for 
ratification.  Lengthy  extracts  from  the  speeches  in  Congress  on  the 
issue  have  been  included  to  demonstrate  the  charged  atmosphere  in 
which  the  measure  was  passed,  and  the  arguments  which  were  re- 
peated ad  nauseam  by  both  wets  and  drys  in  the  years  preceding  and 
following  the  amendment.  The  extracts  also  show  that  boredom  played 
some  part  in  the  passage  of  the  amendment.26  The  members  of  Con- 
gress were  sick  of  being  badgered  by  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and 
their  dry  constituents.  They  ignored  Heflin,  of  Alabama,  who  said  that 
no  member  of  the  House  could  dispose  of  the  question  simply  by  say- 
ing he  was  tired  of  being  bothered  with  it.27  It  was  unfortunate  for 

THE    TURNCOAT    CONGRESS    /    163 

Congress  that  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  only  the  beginning  of 
dry  fuss  about  the  liquor  issue. 

A  comparative  analysis  of  the  vote  on  the  Hobson  resolution  and  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  in  the  House  shows  how  and  where  the  drys 
gained  support  between  1914  and  1917,  and  how  the  speeches  of 
Congressmen  were  motivated  less  by  party  consideration  than  by 
geography.  The  drys  gained  85  votes  in  this  period.  Their  largest  gain 
was  a  block  of  39  Republican  votes  from  Midwestern  states,  where 
the  Anti-Saloon  League  had  its  most  powerful  political  organization 
and  where  the  Democratic  party  was  associated  with  the  liquor  inter- 
ests. During  these  three  years,  with  the  help  of  the  League,  the  Repub- 
lican party  in  the  Midwest  doubled  its  strength,  while  the  Democrats, 
despite  Woodrow  Wilson's  victory  of  1916  against  Hughes,  lost  37 
seats  in  the  House  of  Representatives. 

Yet  the  League  was  a  nonpartisan  organization.  It  supported  drys 
in  both  parties.  The  votes  on  the  Hobson  resolution  and  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  were  not  party  matters.  In  the  first  case,  120  Democrats 
and  73  Republicans  voted  for  the  measure,  141  Democrats  and  47 
Republicans  against.  In  the  second  case,  140  Democrats  and  138 
Republicans  voted  for  the  measure,  64  Democrats  and  62  Republicans 
against.  The  vote  proved  correct  both  the  Anti-Saloon  League's  asser- 
tion that  the  only  way  to  obtain  national  prohibition  was  to  support 
drys  in  both  of  the  major  parties,  and  also  the  Prohibition  party's  ob- 
jection that  both  of  the  major  parties  were  too  divided  on  the  issue  to 
enforce  national  prohibition  wholeheartedly.  Prohibition  was  a  party 
matter  only  on  a  sectional  basis.  Northern  Democrats,  whose  support 
was  based  on  the  wet  cities,  were  opposed  by  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
and  the  Republican  party,  while  Southern  Democrats  in  the  dry  and 
one-party  South  were  helped  by  the  League.  The  nonpartisan  ap- 
proach of  that  powerful  dry  organization  helped  to  build  the  irrepa- 
rable split  in  the  Democratic  party  on  the  prohibition  issue.  Meanwhile, 
the  Republican  party,  freed  of  the  garrulous  conscience  of  the  South, 
was  able  to  straddle  the  issue  more  circumspectly  during  conventions 
and  elections. 

The  vote  on  the  Hobson  resolution  shows  clearly  on  what  a  rock  the 
dry  congressional  group  was  founded.  Of  the  197  members  of  the 
House  who  voted  for  the  Hobson  resolution,  129  were  from  cities  of 
less  than  10,000  people,  while  64  of  them  were  from  country  villages 
of  less  than  2500  people.  Only  13  were  from  cities  containing  a  popu- 
lation of  more  than  100,000.  Of  the  190  opponents  to  the  resolution, 
109  were  from  cities  of  more  than  25,000  people,  and  only  25  from 
villages  with  less  than  2500  inhabitants.  In  fact,  national  prohibition 
was  a  measure  passed  by  village  America  against  urban  America.  This 

164   /THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

conclusion  is  confirmed  by  the  fact  that  San  Francisco,  St.  Louis,  St. 
Paul,  Chicago,  Cincinnati,  Cleveland,  Detroit,  and  Boston  all  rejected 
prohibitory  laws  during  the  period  when  the  Eighteenth  Amendment 
was  being  considered  by  Congress  and  the  states.28 

An  analysis  of  the  Senate  vote  on  the  amendment  also  proves  the 
rural  support  of  the  measure.  Of  course,  both  in  the  United  States 
Senate  and  in  the  various  state  senates  the  country  was  overrepre- 
sented  at  the  expense  of  the  cities,  as  Senator  Calder  pointed  out.29 
This  was  the  reason  why  the  drys  wanted  prohibition  to  be  passed  by 
the  legislatures  as  an  amendment  to  the  Constitution,  rather  than  by 
state  referendum.  For  the  populous  cities  often  upset  dry  majorities  in 
country  areas  during  state  referendums.  Ohio  itself,  the  headquarters 
and  home  state  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  leaders,  did  not  pass  state- 
wide prohibition  until  1918,  owing  to  the  opppsition  of  Cincinnati  and 
other  wet  cities.  But  if  the  League  could  only  cow  the  lower  houses 
of  the  various  states  into  passing  a  constitutional  amendment,  they 
could  rely  on  the  country  majorities  in  the  senates  to  support  them. 

While  the  vote  in  the  House  of  Representatives  on  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  gave  the  measure  a  bare  two-thirds  majority,  in  the  Senate 
the  measure  passed  by  a  majority  of  more  than  three  to  one.  Of  the 
twenty  Senators  who  opposed  the  measure,  nine  came  from  the  popu- 
lous Atlantic  states,  seven  from  the  South,  ever  eager  to  protect  the 
doctrine  of  states'  rights,  and  the  remaining  four  from  states  whose 
beer  or  wine  interests  would  suffer  from  the  amendment.  A  similar 
disproportion  is  shown  when  the  votes  of  the  senates  and  lower  houses 
of  the  ratifying  states  are  compared.  While  the  combined  senates  of 
the  forty-six  ratifying  states  voted  1310  to  237  to  carry  the  amendment, 
the  combined  lower  houses  voted  3782  to  1035.80  Where  the  country 
was  more  heavily  represented  than  the  cities,  the  drys  could  count  on 
more  support  for  dry  measures. 

The  drys  reversed  their  tactics  to  secure  the  ratification  of  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  by  the  states.  While  they  had  told  Congress 
that  the  amendment  was  a  democratic  measure  because  the  question  of 
national  prohibition  had  to  be  referred  to  the  states,  they  told  the 
state  legislatures  that  their  duty  was  to  ratify  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment, since  it  had  been  approved  by  a  two-thirds  majority  of  both 
houses  of  Congress.  Moreover,  it  was  easier  for  the  drys  to  get  the 
states  to  ratify,  for  they  needed  only  a  straight  majority  in  each  house 
of  three-quarters  of  the  states.  The  necessary  thirty-six  states  ratified 
within  fourteen  months,  forty-five  within  sixteen  months.  New  Jersey 
ratified  in  1922,  but  Connecticut  and  Rhode  Island  never  ratified. 

The  terms  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  show  the  great  care  of  the 
dry  lobby  not  to  push  legislators  too  far  too  fast  The  amendment  read: 

THE    TURNCOAT    CONGRESS   /   165 

SECTION  1.  After  one  year  from  the  ratification  of  this  article  the 
manufacture,  sale,  or  transportation  of  intoxicating  liquors  within, 
the  importation  thereof  into,  or  the  exportation  thereof  from  the 
United  States  and  all  territory  subject  to  the  jurisdiction  thereof  for 
beverage  purposes  is  hereby  prohibited. 

SECTION  2.  The  Congress  and  the  several  States  shall  have  con- 
current power  to  enforce  this  article  by  appropriate  legislation. 

SECTION  3.  This  article  shall  be  inoperative  unless  it  shall  have  been 
ratified  as  an  amendment  to  the  Constitution  by  the  legislatures  of  the 
several  States,  as  provided  in  the  Constitution,  within  seven  years 
from  the  date  of  the  submission  hereof  to  the  States  by  the  Congress. 

If  the  prohibitionists  had  insisted  on  total  prohibition  of  liquor  in 
America,  they  would  not  have  allowed  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  to 
be  presented  in  this  form.  But  the  Anti-Saloon  League  was  more  con- 
cerned with  enshrining  the  practice  of  prohibition  in  the  Constitution 
than  with  enacting  a  stringent  and  unequivocal  measure.  The  first  step 
was  to  pass  the  amendment  in  any  form;  the  second  was  to  pass  a 
severe  law  to  enforce  it.  The  League  was  always  occupied  with  the 
possible  in  politics,  although  it  favored  the  eternal  in  propaganda. 

There  were  many  flaws  in  the  wording  of  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment. As  in  the  Webb-Kenyon  Law,  the  amendment  did  not  forbid  the 
purchase  or  use  of  liquor  — only  four  Senators  could  be  found  to 
support  Hardwick's  motion  to  this  effect.  Therefore,  any  man  who 
could  afford  to  fill  his  cellars  before  the  amendment  became  legal 
could  serve  liquor  to  his  guests  perfectly  legitimately  until  his  stocks 
were  exhausted.  Also,  the  fact  that  the  amendment  gave  the  liquor 
trade  a  year  to  wind  up  its  business  destroyed  the  dry  argument  that 
the  liquor  trade  was  criminal.  No  criminal  organization  would  be 
guaranteed  by  Congress  a  year  to  put  its  affairs  in  order.  Moreover, 
instruments  for  manufacturing  liquor  in  the  home  were  not  banned, 
and  the  bootlegger  was  given  ample  time  to  prepare  for  his  future 
profession.  Again,  the  amendment  served  to  increase  class  hatred,  for 
it  was  only  the  poor  who  could  not  afford  to  stock  up  liquor.  In 
Samuel  Gompers's  words,  "The  workers  who  have  no  cellars  and  have 
not  the  opportunity  of  gratifying  a  normal  even  though  temporary 
rational  desire  learn  to  hate  their  more  fortunate  fellow  citizens  more 
bitterly  and  uncompromisingly/'31 

The  failure  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  to  include  a  purchase 
clause  was  a  further  weakness.  Since  there  was  no  penalty  attached 
to  buying  liquor,  people  were  prepared  to  buy.  The  threat  of  putting 
bootleggers  in  jail  hardly  deterred  their  respectable  patrons,  who  ran 
no  risk  at  all.  Thus  the  amendment  allowed  a  safe  demand  for  liquor 
to  exist,  and  only  persecuted  the  suppliers  of  that  demand.  The  con- 


sciences  of  many  good  citizens  was  salved  by  the  consideration  that 
they  were  not  legally  breaking  the  letter  of  the  Constitution  them- 
selves, nor  even  aiding  and  abetting  others  to  break  it.  When  only 
the  trade  in  liquor  was  criminal  and  liquor  itself  not  so,  legal  reasons 
for  abstaining  did  not  exist. 

There  were  additional  flaws  in  the  amendment.  The  words  "con- 
current power"  were  ambiguous  and  set  the  stage  for  a  long  legal 
battle  between  the  states  and  the  federal  government.  Furthermore, 
the  omission  of  the  word  "alcoholic"  from  the  amendment  in  favor  of 
the  word  "intoxicating,"  despite  the  protests  of  the  Prohibition  party, 
allowed  many  cases  in  the  law  courts  to  be  dismissed.  Proof  that 
liquor  was  "intoxicating"  was  harder  to  demonstrate  than  proof  that 
liquor  was  "alcoholic"  and  had  been  sold.  Although  the  Volstead  Act 
later  defined  "intoxicating"  as  one-half  of  1  per  cent  of  alcohol  by  vol- 
ume, an  amendment  to  the  Volstead  Act,  such  as  the  Cullen  Bill  of 
1933,  could  allow  the  sale  of  beer  before  the  Eighteenth  Amendment 
had  been  repealed. 

In  the  debate  on  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  in  the  House,  Con- 
gressman Graham,  of  Pennsylvania,  had  said  that  the  wet  argument 
of  the  unconstitutionality  of  the  amendment  was  a  bugaboo.  The 
Supreme  Court  later  upheld  his  wisdom  in  the  National  Prohibition 
Cases.82  But  Graham  was  even  wiser  in  his  succeeding  remarks,  when 
he  detailed  his  reasons  for  voting  against  the  measure.  For  him,  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  destroyed  the  purpose  of  the  Constitution. 
That  fundamental  law  was  only  a  declaration  of  principles,  never  of 


IN  1930,  a  journalist  unkindly  suggested  that  the  whole  history  of  the 
United  States  could  be  told  in  eleven  words:  Columbus,  Washington, 
Lincoln,  Volstead,  Two  flights  up  and  ask  for  Gus.34  In  a  sense,  his 
cheap  wit  was  truer  than  he  knew.  For  if  the  speak-easy  and  the  boot- 
legger were  aided  by  the  loopholes  of  the  Volstead  Act,  those  loop- 
holes were  only  in  the  act  because  of  the  whole  tradition  of  American 

Although  the  prohibitionists  had  written  prohibition  into  the  funda- 
mental law  of  America,  that  fundamental  law  prevented  them  from 
enforcing  it.  The  Constitution  guaranteed  Americans  certain  rights. 
The  Volstead  Act  and  other  means  of  enforcing  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment seemed  to  deny  Americans  their  heritage.  The  Fourth  Amend- 
ment gave  people  the  right  to  be  secure  in  their  persons,  houses, 
papers,  and  effects  against  unreasonable  searches  and  seizures.  The 


Fifth  Amendment  prevented  people  from  being  forced  to  be  witnesses 
against  themselves  or  from  being  tried  twice  for  the  same  offense. 
The  Sixth  Amendment  guaranteed  "a  speedy  and  public  trial  by  an 
impartial  jury."  Yet  these  individual  rights  were  attacked  by  the 
Volstead  Act  and  its  successors.  Moreover,  those  states  that  by  tradi- 
tion or  conviction  opposed  the  increasing  power  of  the  federal  govern- 
ment, were  never  persuaded  that  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  did  not 
violate  the  Tenth,  which  reserved  all  powers  not  delegated  to  the 
United  States  by  the  Constitution  to  the  states  or  to  the  people. 

Yet  Congress,  once  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  had  been  ratified 
by  the  states,  had  to  provide  for  its  token  enforcement.  The  amend- 
ment could  not  be  properly  enforced  without  a  bill,  which  would 
invade  American  liberties  intolerably.  The  American  people  and  Con- 
gress were  not  prepared  for  this.  Thus  the  drys  had  to  put  through  a 
measure  which  would  deter  without  terrifying  too  much,  and  com- 
promise without  excusing  everything.  The  principal  author  of  this 
unhappy  mish-mash  of  the  possible  and  the  desirable  was  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  Washington  attorney,  Wayne  B.  Wheeler.  Despite  the 
jealous  opposition  of  Bishop  Cannon,  he  drafted  such  a  complex  meas- 
ure that  he  gave  himself  great  power  for  the  nine  years  before  his 
death.85  He  was  the  only  man  who  could  understand  and  interpret 
the  code  of  enforcement.  Like  Moses,  he  interpreted  the  command- 
ments of  his  law  to  the  faithful.  The  sponsor  of  his  law  was  Repre- 
sentative Andrew  Volstead,  of  Minnesota.  Volstead  lost  his  seat  in 
Congress  four  years  later  for  his  pains.36 

The  original  Volstead  Bill  was  considerably  more  severe  than  the 
amended  act  of  sixty-seven  sections,  later  supplemented  by  another  six 
sections,  which  evolved  out  of  the  debates  on  the  measure  in  Congress. 
First,  the  House  Judiciary  Committee  weakened  the  clauses  of  the  bill 
that  dealt  with  search  and  seizure,  with  the  soliciting  of  orders  for 
liquor,  and  with  the  report  of  arrests  for  drunkenness  by  local  officers. 
House  amendments,  although  partially  restoring  the  search  and  seizure 
clauses,  provided  for  severe  penalties  against  the  wrongful  issue  of 
search  warrants,  and  allowed  die  possession  of  liquor  in  private  homes 
and  the  sale  of  sacramental  wine.  The  amended  bill  was  passed  in  the 
House  by  a  vote  of  287  to  100,  a  loss  to  the  wets  of  28  votes  since  the 
division  in  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  owing  to  dry  and  Republican 
victories  in  the  elections  of  1918. 

The  bill  was  then  referred  to  a  Senate  Judiciary  Subcommittee  and 
the  Senate  Judiciary  Committee.  Further  amendments  were  passed. 
Dwellings  where  people  could  possess  liquor  without  fear  of  reprisals 
were  defined  as  including  residences,  apartments,  hotels,  or  similar 
places  of  abode.  Individuals  were  still  allowed  to  store  and  consume 

168   /THE    ROOTS     OF    PROHIBITION 

liquor  and,  in  addition,  to  manufacture  light  wine  and  cider  at  home. 
Although  the  provision  defining  "intoxicating"  at  such  a  trivial  volume 
of  alcohol  was  upheld,  the  Senate  insisted  that  the  government  must 
bear  "the  burden  of  proof  in  the  prosecution  of  liquor  violations.  The 
Senate  then  passed  the  bill  without  roll  call  and  returned  it  to  the 
House,  which  refused  to  accept  the  Senate's  amendments.  A  confer- 
ence was  set  up  between  the  houses  to  reach  an  agreement.  At  the 
conference,  the  Senate  won  virtually  every  one  of  its  liberal  provisions, 
even  in  minor  matters,  such  as  striking  out  the  clause  penalizing 
drunkards  on  public  vehicles,  allowing  alcoholics  to  be  given  liquor 
while  under  hospital  treatment,  and  legalizing  the  manufacture  of 
beer  before  it  was  made  into  near-beer. 

The  Volstead  Act,  as  passed  by  Congress,  was  a  curious  document. 
Although  the  Armistice  had  been  signed  for  eight  months,  the  Act 
provided  for  the  enforcement  of  wartime  prohibition.  The  drys  main- 
tained that  the  period  of  demobilization  was  so  difficult  that  it  should 
be  considered  as  part  of  the  war;  the  wets  said  that  the  clause  was  a 
dishonest  attempt  by  the  drys  to  go  back  on  their  promise  to  give  the 
liquor  trade  a  year  to  wind  up  its  business.  For,  by  the  device  of 
prolonging  wartime  prohibition,  the  Volstead  Act  closed  up  the  gap 
between  its  passage  in  1919  and  the  start  of  national  prohibition  under 
the  Eighteenth  Amendment  on  January  16,  1920.  However  this  was, 
Woodrow  Wilson  used  the  anomaly  of  the  clauses  relating  to  wartime 
prohibition  to  veto  the  Volstead  Act  on  October  27,  1919.  In  his  mes- 
sage to  Congress,  he  added  the  cryptic  warning  that  in  all  matters 
having  to  do  with  the  personal  habits  and  customs  of  large  numbers 
of  people,  the  established  processes  of  legal  change  had  to  be  fol- 
lowed.87 But  he  did  not  express  specifically  in  his  veto  message  either 
approval  or  disapproval  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  or  of  the 
main  body  of  the  Volstead  Act.  The  House  and  the  Senate  immediately 
reacted  by  passing  the  act  over  Wilson's  veto. 

In  brief,  the  amended  Volstead  Act  provided  for  the  manufacture 
of  industrial  alcohol  by  permits,  and  its  denaturing  to  render  it  unfit 
for  human  consumption.  The  use  of  beverage  alcohol  was  restricted  to 
the  patients  of  doctors,  communicants  at  religious  services,  and  makers 
of  vinegar  and  cider.  The  Commissioner  of  Internal  Revenue  was 
charged  with  administering  the  enforcement  of  the  act.  The  Com- 
missioner and  his  assistants  were  given  powers  to  investigate  offenders 
and  report  them  to  United  States  attorneys,  who  would  prosecute  them 
before  the  federal  courts.  Penalties  for  bootleggers  were  set  at  a 
maximum  fine  of  $1000  and  six  months  in  jail  for  first  offenders,  and 
$10,000  and  five  years  in  jail  for  second  offenders.  Places  selling  liquor 

THE    TURNCOAT    CONGRESS   /   169 

illegally  could  be  padlocked  by  court  injunction  for  one  year.  Personal 
property  used  for  the  transportation  of  liquor,  such  as  automobiles, 
boats,  and  airplanes,  could  be  seized  and  sold  by  public  auction  to 
help  defray  the  costs  of  enforcement.  The  purchase  of  liquor,  how- 
ever, did  not  make  the  purchaser  liable  for  prosecution  under  the  law 
of  conspiracy.38 

The  Volstead  Act  was  full  of  flaws.  It  was  the  result  of  compromises 
in  the  House  and  the  Senate  between  the  determined  dry  lobbyists  and 
a  majority  of  the  members  of  Congress  who  did  not  desire  that  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  should  be  rigidly  enforced.  Even  the  drys  in 
Congress  did  not  want  to  jeopardize  the  amendment  by  making  the 
Volstead  Act  too  severe  and  by  causing  a  public  revulsion  against 
national  prohibition.  Only  three  members  of  the  House  voted  for  an 
amendment  to  the  Volstead  Act  on  July  21  to  make  the  home  posses- 
sion of  liquor  unlawful;  both  drys  and  wets  opposed  such  a  stringent 
provision.  The  aim  of  the  act  was  to  secure  as  much  enforcement  as 
the  country  would  endure,  not  total  enforcement. 

The  faults  in  the  framing  of  the  Volstead  Act  were  quickly  revealed, 
once  national  prohibition  was  put  into  effect.  Yet  these  shortcomings 
were  no  reflection  on  the  sincerity  of  the  drys.  TKey  wanted  prohibition 
to  be  enforced  as  efficiently  as  possible;  but  they  knew  that  Congress 
and  the  wet  cities  would  not  allow  them  to  get  all  they  wanted.  Even 
so,  by  the  compromise  of  the  Volstead  Act,  they  did  the  dry  cause 
great  damage.  They  did  not  secure  the  blessings  of  good  law  enforce- 
ment for  their  supporters,  and  they  gave  great  cause  for  resentment 
to  their  opponents.  The  provision  that  allowed  the  making  of  home 
"cider  and  light  wines  seemed  a  monstrous  discrimination  in  favor  of 
the  farm  against  the  town.  As  Congressman  Barldey  pointed  out,  if 
fermented  apple  juice  and  grape  juice  were  legal,  "how  about  corn 
juice?"  Congressman  McKiniry  further  saw  in  the  legislation  the  "mali- 
cious joy"  of  the  rural  districts  of  America  in  "inflicting  this  sumptuary 
prohibition  legislation  upon  the  great  cities.  It  preserves  their  cider 
and  destroys  the  city  workers'  beer."39 

But  perhaps  Congressman  Crago,  of  Pennsylvania,  best  put  the 
j>bje.ctions  of  those  old-fashioned  Americans  whom  the  Volstead  Act 
was  designed  to  protect  He  feared  that  the  law  would  breed  "a  dis- 
content jtnd  disrespect  for  law  in  thjk  country  beyond  anything  we 
h^ve  ever  witnessed  before."  The  act  refused  trial  by  jury  in  some 
casfesr-flrc6nfiscated  personal  property;  it  extended  the  power  of  the 
judiciary  beyond  anything  since  the  shameful  days  of  Judge  Jeffreys 
in  England;  it  invaded  the  sanctity  of  the  home;  and  it  made  "crimes 
of  the  ordinary  harmless  housekeeping  acts  of  nearly  every  family  in 
our  country."40 


In  this  way,  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the  Volstead  Act  be- 
came the  law  of  the  land.  Through  the  many  roots  of  prohibition  — 
rural  mythology,  the  psychology  of  excess,  the  exploited  fears  of  the 
mass  of  the  people,  the  findings  of  science  and  medicine,  the  temper 
of  reform,  the  efficiency  of  the  dry  pressure  groups,  their  mastery  of 
propaganda,  the  stupidity  and  self-interest  of  the  brewers  and  dis- 
tillers, the  necessary  trimming  of  politicians,  and  the  weakness  of  the 
elected  representatives  of  the  people  -  through  all  these  channels  the 
sap  of  the  dry  tree  rose  until  the  legal  prohibition  of  the  liquor  trade 
burst  out  new  and  green  in  the  first  month  of  1920.  The  roots  had  been 
separate;  yet  they  were  all  part  of  a  common  American  seed.  They 
combined  and  contributed  to  the  strength  of  the  whole.  The  Anti- 
Saloon  League,  bent  on  its  particular  reform,  was  the  heir  and  bene- 
ficiary of  many  interactions  in  American  life.  As  the  diys  stood  on  the 
threshold  of  victory  at  the  opening  of  the  twenties,  they  could  see 
manifest  destiny  in  the  success  of  their  cause.  They  seemed  to  be  the 
darling  army  of  the  Lord.  Behind  them  appeared  to  lie  one  mighty 
pattern  and  purpose.  Before  them  hung  the  sweet  fruits  of  victory. 



The  Dry  Tree 


Prelude  to  Deluge 

Oh,  fatal  Friday! 

Monumental  Dry  Day! 
Ah,  dreadful  Sixteenth  Day  of  January 
That  expurgates  the  Nation's  commissary, 

For  all  the  years  to  come, 
Of  whisky,  brandy,  gin  and  beer  and  rum, 
The  sparkling  flow  of  Veuve  Cliquot  and  Mumm 
And  all  the  wines  —  I  cannot  speak  the  worst; 
Drought  leaves  me  glum  and  dumb, 

O  Day  accurst 

Of  Thirst! 


the  season  'tis,  my  lovely  lambs, 

of  Sumner  Volstead  Christ  and  Co. 
the  epoch  of  Mann's  righteousness 
the  age  of  dollars  and  no  sense. * 
e.  e.  cummings 

NATIONAL  PROHIBITION  began  silently,  and  with  little  resist- 
ance. The  creeping  campaign  of  the  drys  and  wartime  restrictions 
had  inured  all  travelers  in  the  United  States  to  the  sanctions  of  the 
liquor  laws.  Moreover,  the  end  of  alcoholic  drink  had  already  been 
celebrated  or  mourned  three  times  before  the  actual  sixteenth  of 
January,  1920.  The  first  funeral  orgy  had  taken  place  with  the  opening 
of  wartime  prohibition  on  July  1,  1919.  From  that  date  onwards,  the 
people  of  America  were  reduced  to  drinking  up  the  remaining  stocks 
of  liquor,  for  its  manufacture  was  now  forbidden.  Most  of  these  stocks 
were  bought  up  by  the  wealthy  and  by  institutions,  in  order  to  make 
the  approaching  desert  years  more  tolerable  with  a  well-stocked  cellar. 
The  Yale  Club,  with  prophetic  insight,  laid  down  enough  bottles  to 
last  out  fourteen  years;  other  moneyed  groups  did  the  same.  The  re- 

*  From  Poems  1923-1954,  copyright,  1954,  by  E.  E.  Cummings.  Reprinted  by 
permission  of  Harcourt,  Brace  &  World,  Inc. 


174   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

maining  stocks  of  matured  liquor  were  drunk  up  in  October,  when  all 
drinkers  held  a  wake  at  the  passing  of  the  Volstead  Act,  The  final 
spree  took  place  over  Christmas.  Liquor  was  already  scarce  enough 
by  this  time  to  cause  the  deaths  of  more  than  one  hundred  people  who 
celebrated  the  New  Year  by  drinking  adulterated  whisky  made  from 
wood  alcohol.  Sixteen  suspected  bootleggers  were  charged  with  mur- 
der in  Massachusetts  for  selling  this  poison.1  It  was  not  a  happy  augury 
for  the  Eighteenth  Amendment. 

Only  the  rich  and  the  farsighted  laid  away  enough  bottles  to  stand 
the  siege  of  the  dry  decade.  A  curious  fatalism  seemed  to  grip  the  rest 
of  the  drinkers  of  the  land.  This  was  compounded  partly  of  a  false 
hope  that  something  would  happen  which  would  stop  prohibition;  it 
was  impossible  to  conceive  of  such  a  monstrous  reality.  "Like  Noah's 
neighbors/'  the  Outlook  said,  "the  wets  up  to  the  last  apparently  did  not 
believe  that  the  flood  was  coming."2  There  was  also  a  guilty  conviction 
among  many  drinkers  that  perhaps  the  drys  were  right;  prohibition 
might  well  be  an  excellent  thing  for  the  nation.  This  conviction  was 
allied  with  a  spirit  of  defeatism,  because  of  the  continued  victories  of 
the  drys.  As  a  citizen  of  Charlotte,  North  Carolina,  acknowledged, 
"When  the  women,  the  churches,  and  business  are  united  in  any  fight, 
as  they  are  in  this  one,  nothing  can  stand  against  them/'8  Moreover, 
there  was  a  real  indifference  to  the  matter.  The  country  was  in  the  grip 
of  the  Red  Scare,  demobilization,  and  the  quarrel  over  the  League  of 
Nations.  Articles  on  Starving  Austria,  the  triumphs  of  the  Red  Armies, 
Bolshevism  in  America,  the  need  for  "debusing"  the  United  States 
by  getting  rid  of  all  undesirables  "regardless  of  race,  color,  creed, 
money,  position  and  whether  citizens  or  aliens"  —  these  urgent  topics 
pushed  prohibition  to  the  back  pages  of  newspapers  and  magazines.4 
The  long  wait  for  the  dry  law  had  made  men  believe  that  it  would 
never  come,  and  yet  accept  it  when  it  did. 

In  contrast  to  the  previous  and  later  cascades  of  talk  about  prohibi- 
tion, a  strange  moratorium  of  controversy  was  widespread  in  1919. 
One  observer  wrote  on  the  dry  law: 

Few  people  really  want  it.  But  nobody  cares  to  say  so.  Politicians 
wait  in  vain  for  the  sign  that  is  not  given.  Judges  on  the  bench  hand 
out  reluctant  sentences,  wondering  what  they  will  do  when  the  stock 
of  wine  in  their  own  cellars  is  exhausted.  Lawyers,  doctors,  professors 
and  merchants  sit  tamely  by  awaiting  the  extinction  of  their  private 
comfort.  The  working  man  watches  the  vanishing  of  his  glass  of  beer 
and  wishes  that  he  was  a  man  of  influence  with  power  to  protest.  The 
man  of  influence  wishes  that  he  were  but  a  plain  working  man  and 
might  utter  a  protest  without  fear  of  injury  of  his  interests.5 

PRELUDE    TO    DELUGE/   175 

Only  the  drys  were  content  with  this  situation,  although  they  mistook 
this  expectant  apathy  for  popular  sympathy. 

Much  of  the  lack  of  resistance  was  due  to  the  success  of  dry  propa- 
ganda. People  believed  the  Anti-Saloon  League  spokesmen  when  they 
said  that  they  would  enforce  the  law  quickly  and  cheaply.  The  Com- 
missioner of  Internal  Revenue  in  Wilson's  administration  sent  out  a 
circular  letter  to  all  the  clergymen  of  America,  asking  them  to  set  up 
local  committees  on  law  enforcement.  These  committees  were  to  re- 
ceive complaints  about  the  violations  of  the  liquor  laws.  They  were  to 
channel  all  relevant  evidence  to  the  local  police  or  prohibition  authori- 
ties. Granted  this  active  support,  the  Commissioner  promised,  "We 
will  have  little  difficulty  in  the  work  of  enforcement"6  An  efficient 
force  of  agents,  1500  strong,  had  been  prepared  by  John  F.  Kramer, 
the  first  Prohibition  Commissioner.  With  the  prospect  of  such  a  strong 
fist  of  the  law  ready  to  strike,  the  drinkers  were  prepared  to  throw 
aside  their  bottles.  After  three  weeks  of  enforcement,  the  wet  Nation 
was  lamenting  that  never  had  such  an  army  of  officials  been  gathered 
to  apply  any  law  or  constitutional  amendment.  "A  small  army  of 
Federal  officials  is  busily  engaged  in  searching  buildings,  trains,  ves- 
sels, express  wagons,  and  private  conveyances,  and  in  spying  upon 
individuals."7  With  such  terror  rampant  among  the  wets,  the  supervis- 
ing revenue  officer  in  New  York  could  confidently  say,  "There  will  not 
be  any  violations  to  speak  of/'8 

In  Orange  County,  North  Carolina,  the  county  which  the  Treasury 
agents  at  Washington  called  "the  banner  county"  of  the  United  States 
for  illegal  whisky  stills,  the  traditional  distillers  themselves  lay  low  for 
a  while  to  see  whether  the  government  was  going  to  interfere  formi- 
dably with  their  living.9  Although  the  whole  Appalachian  mountain 
system  from  West  Virginia  down  to  Georgia  was  "literally  honey- 
combed with  homemade  stills  for  the  illicit  manufacture  of  the  bever- 
age known  familiarly  as  Moonshine,  Blue  John,  and  Mountain  Dew," 
business  was  slack  in  the  first  weeks  of  the  Volstead  Act.10  For  the  drys 
seemed  to  be  still  in  the  saddle.  Newspapers  now  vied  with  each  other, 
priggishly  telling  their  readers  how  to  obey  the  law  with  long  lists  of 
bewares.  And  the  Anti-Saloon  League  had  issued  a  formal  warning 
that  it  would  "stay  in  politics"  until  the  wets  had  given  up  all  attempts 
to  nullify  the  law.  A  campaign  for  a  fighting  fund  of  $25,000,000  to 
enforce  the  law  was  begun  by  League  leaders  in  the  Southern  states.11 

On  the  day  before  the  Volstead  Act  came  into  force,  the  drys  had 
won  another  great  victory.  A  judge  in  a  United  States  District  Court 
in  New  York  had  ruled  that  private  liquor  kept  in  warehouses,  safe- 
deposit  boxes,  or  lockers  could  be  seized  by  prohibition  agents.  This 
disastrous  ruling  had  galvanized  the  wets  out  of  their  lethargy.  On 

176   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

January  16,  despite  the  bitter  weather,  everything  on  wheels  was  com- 
mandeered to  carry  bottles.  Nothing  was  spared,  not  even  perambula- 
tors. Never  was  so  much  liquor  carried  by  so  many  in  so  few  hours. 
When  midnight  struck  and  the  land  went  officially  dry,  millions  of  dol- 
lars' worth  of  liquor  was  lying  on  the  dockside,  waiting  to  be  shipped 
out  of  the  United  States,  or  was  being  rushed  in  automobiles  and  ex- 
press trains  to  the  safety  of  private  homes.  Saloonkeepers  were  shut- 
ting up  their  saloons  quietly  forever,  as  they  thought,  and  were  look- 
ing for  buyers,  who  would  convert  such  desirable  corner  sites  into 
drugstores  or  candy  counters.  One  of  the  most  notorious  saloons  in 
Hell's  Kitchen,  New  York,  was  serving  soup  and  coffee  and  quick 
lunches  within  a  week,  with  glass  food  cases  set  on  top  of  the  cherry- 
wood  bar.  And  a  brewer,  closing  down,  offered  all  his  stockholders 
two  barrels  of  beer  instead  of  a  last  dividend.12 

The  farewell  parties  to  legal  liquor  were  lugubrious  affairs.  There 
were  mock  funerals  at  Maxim's  and  the  Golden  Glades  and  the  Roman 
Gardens  in  New  York;  at  Reisenweber's,  all  ladies  at  the  grave  of  drink 
were  given  compacts  in  the  shape  of  coffins.  But  the  most  joyous  fu- 
neral was  held  by  the  revivalist  Billy  Sunday,  who  ceremoniously  dealt 
with  the  twenty-foot  corpse  of  John  Barleycorn  at  Norfolk,  Virginia. 
His  example  was  followed  by  thousands  of  church  and  white-ribbon 
meetings  all  over  the  land,  which  celebrated  the  end  of  the  Demon 
Rum.  Their  rejoicings  were  premature.  Already  the  first  drops  of  the 
deluge  had  fallen. 

In  the  three  months  before  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  became  ef- 
fective, liquor  worth  half  a  million  dollars  was  stolen  from  govern- 
ment warehouses.  Although  the  guards  at  the  warehouses  were  aug- 
mented, bonded  liquor  continued  to  disappear.  When  a  fifth  of  whisky 
was  fetching  between  ten  and  twenty  dollars  in  large  Eastern  cities, 
and  a  gallon  of  corn  liquor  was  selling  in  the  hills  for  twenty  dollars 
without  allowing  for  the  costs  of  distribution,  many  were  tempted  into 
the  bootleg  trade.  Moreover,  some  states  were  openly  nullifying  the 
law.  The  Governor  of  New  Jersey  in  his  campaign  for  re-election 
promised  to  make  the  state  wetter  than  the  Atlantic  Ocean.  Lawyers 
there  were  trying  to  make  legal  drinks  containing  up  to  one-quarter  of 
pure  alcohol,  by  claiming  that  they  were  "nonintoxicating."  The  Anti- 
Saloon  League's  enforcement  fund  was  abandoned  owing  to  lack  of 
support.  The  President,  Woodrow  Wilson,  had  had  a  stroke,  and  was 
setting  the  pace  of  inaction  over  prohibition  for  his  successors.  The 
appointees  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  were  of  low  caliber,  and  were 
anxiously  awaiting  a  change  of  administration.  And  the  Customs  and 
Coast  Guard  agents,  try  as  they  might,  could  only  intercept  a  small 

PBELUDE    TO    DELUGE/   177 

amount  of  the  liquor,  which  was  being  smuggled  into  the  country  to 
meet  the  huge  demand. 

In  the  first  six  months  of  prohibition,  the  later  problems  of  the  re- 
form show  themselves.  On  February  19,  two  prohibition  agents  were 
indicted  in  Baltimore  on  charges  of  corruption.13  By  June  17,  the  fed- 
eral courts  in  Chicago  were  hopelessly  congested  with  prohibition 
cases  —  there  were  some  six  hundred  liquor  trials  pending.  In  western 
Pennsylvania,  the  local  police  restored  liquor  to  its  owners,  after  it 
had  been  seized  by  federal  officials.  Examples  of  the  diversion  of  in- 
dustrial alcohol,  of  the  refusal  of  state  legislatures  to  appropriate 
money  for  enforcement,  of  the  huge  rise  in  the  number  of  illicit  stills, 
of  the  rich  and  middle  classes  drinking  openly,  of  the  old  saloons  re- 
opening as  speak-easies  under  police  protection,  and  of  the  flagrant 
drunkenness  of  many  of  the  delegates  at  both  the  Republican  and  the 
Democratic  nominating  conventions  —  these  examples  showed  that  the 
future  dry  road  of  America  would  be  subject  to  storms.14 

Yet,  in  1920,  these  were  mere  gusts  of  the  storm.  They  were  not  se- 
rious. For  the  bootleggers  were  not  yet  organized  on  a  national  scale. 
Wealthy  private  citizens  were  still  using  up  their  private  stocks  of 
liquor  and  were  not  in  the  market  for  more.  Many  people  were  willing 
to  give  the  law  a  fair  trial.  Although  there  was  moonshine  available  in 
the  hills,  smuggled  liquor  near  the  borders  and  coasts,  diverted  indus- 
trial alcohol  in  the  cities,  hard  cider  in  the  country,  and  hair  tonics 
everywhere,  brewing  and  wine  making  and  gin  mixing  in  the  home 
were  still  undiscovered  arts.  If  the  drys  had  been  able  to  push  through 
a  vigorous  campaign  of  deterrence  at  the  outset,  they  might  have  had 
a  longer  period  of  triumph.  But  instead,  the  dry  leaders,  sensing  a 
cheap  victory  at  home,  looked  out  for  a  world  to  conquer.  And  some 
wets  encouraged  them  in  the  passage  "from  confidence  and  power  to 
arrogance  and  political  coercion/'  For  they  put  the  drys  in  the  place  of 
Greek  tragic  heroes,  when  "arrogance  was  the  step  just  before  mad- 
ness and  after  madness  came  destruction.1*15 

Meanwhile,  the  drys  only  foresaw  some  minor  mopping-up  operations 
before  America  turned  bone-dry.  And  the  country  waited  for  a  change 
of  Presidents  and  for  proof  of  the  practical  wisdom  of  the  Volstead 
Act.  And  a  doctor  recommended  to  the  International  Congress  Against 
Alcoholism  and  to  the  nation,  "Of  all  the  blessings  in  the  world,  prob- 
ably water  taken  inside  and  outside  is  the  best/'16 



The  Toothless  Law 

With  what  chance  of  success,  for  example,  would  a  legis- 
lator go  about  to  extirpate  drunkenness  and  fornication  by 
dint  of  legal  punishment?  Not  all  the  tortures  which  inge- 
nuity could  invent  would  compass  it:  and,  before  he  had 
made  any  progress  worth  regarding,  such  a  mass  of  evil 
would  be  produced  by  the  punishment,  as  would  exceed,  a 
thousand-fold,  the  utmost  possible  mischief  for  the  offence. 
The  great  difficulty  would  be  in  procuring  evidence;  an  ob- 
ject which  could  not  be  attempted,  with  any  probability  of 
success,  without  spreading  dismay  through  every  family, 
tearing  the  bonds  of  sympathy  asunder,  and  rooting  out  the 
influence  of  all  the  social  motives. 


Law  is  whatever  is  boldly  asserted  and  plausibly  main- 


Now  let  him  enforce  it. 


(of  John  Marshall,  Chief  Justice 

of  the  Supreme  Court) 


HMOTHING  CAN  be  more  certain/'  wrote  Oliver  Goldsmith,  "than 
II  that  numerous  written  laws  are  a  sign  of  a  degenerate  commu- 
nity, and  are  frequently  not  the  consequences  of  vicious  morals  in  a 
state,  but  the  causes."1  His  Puritan  contemporaries  in  America  held  the 
opposite  opinion.  To  them,  numerous  written  laws  were  a  sign  of  a 
godly  community  and  were  the  curb  of  vicious  morals  in  a  state,  not 
the  causes.  The  laws  of  the  community  should  reflect  the  ideal  morality 
of  the  community,  not  its  practice.  As  in  the  Ten  Commandments,  the 
ethics  of  society  should  be  directed  by  a  series  of  prohibitions  of  all  the 
possible  sins  of  mankind.  The  doing  of  good  was  to  be  a  process  of 
banning  the  bad.  The  way  of  the  Lord  on  earth  was  to  be  found  in 
fear  of  the  law.  It  was  this  attitude  to  legislation  which  resulted  in  the 
writing  of  the  famous  Blue  Laws  of  New  England.  The  Blue  Laws 


THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /    179 

regulated  swearing,  blasphemy,  Sabbath  observance,  sex,  gambling, 
and  drunkenness.  The  Laws  of  the  Saints  in  Massachusetts  were,  in- 
deed, an  incentive  to  Western  immigration.  For,  in  the  frontier  wilder- 
nesses, sinners  could  indulge  themselves  in  peace.  Beyond  the  confines 
of  civilization,  law  was  largely  a  rough  and  ready  personal  justice.  The 
way  of  the  free  man  in  the  West  was  to  be  found  in  the  absence  of  the 

Thus,  on  the  continent  of  North  America,  two  different  traditions  of 
law  and  morals  developed.  The  first,  which  was  developed  by  the 
Puritans,  regarded  morals  as  a  fit  branch  of  legislation.  The  second, 
which  was  the  result  of  frontier  conditions,  considered  morality  as  a 
private  matter,  and  moral  reformers  as  representatives  of  the  very  tyr- 
anny of  civilization  and  church  from  which  America  had  revolted.  The 
first  attitude  became  the  logical  argument  of  the  drys,  the  second  of 
the  wets.  To  the  drys,  "the  ultimate  source  of  all  progress"  was  "in  the 
words,  law  and  its  penalty.*'2  To  the  wets,  "no  man  was  ever  made 
good  by  force";  it  was  impossible  to  take  a  man  "by  the  scruff  of  the 
neck  and  lift  him  up  into  heaven/'3  Both  arguments  could  quote  tradi- 
tion and  history  as  their  justification. 

A  third  attitude  toward  law  and  morals  grew  up  at  the  close  of  the 
nineteenth  century.  This  was  an  attitude  compounded  of  pragmatism, 
cynicism,  Darwinism,  and  Marxism.  Its  argument  was  that  the  laws  of 
society  were  the  laws  of  the  strongest  members  of  that  society.  This 
was  also  true  of  the  morals  of  society.  Therefore,  the  connection  be- 
tween law  and  morals  followed  the  interests  of  the  ruling  group.  Henry 
Adams  wrote  of  himself  that  from  early  childhood  his  moral  principles 
had  struggled  blindly  with  his  interests;  but  he  had  become  certain  of 
"one  law  that  ruled  all  others  —masses  of  men  invariably  follow  inter- 
ests in  deciding  morals."4  This  attitude  towards  law  and  morality  ini- 
tially helped  the  drys,  and  then  worked  against  them.  While  eugenics 
and  progressivism  were  the  dominant  intellectual  forces,  the  drys 
could  and  did  plead  that  their  opponents  were  trying  to  retard  the  in- 
evitable march  of  history  and  the  majority.  Prohibition  of  liquor  should 
be  enacted  because  it  was  the  popular  will.  But  when  economics  super- 
seded eugenics  as  the  main  interest  of  the  intellectuals,  and  the  revolt 
against  moral  reforms  seemed  to  be  the  contribution  of  the  twenties  to 
the  progress  of  human  liberty,  the  drys  were  the  victims  of  their  own 
past  reasoning.  Now  the  repeal  of  prohibition  was  represented  as 
something  which  should  be  enacted  because  it  was  the  popular  will. 
An  appeal  to  the  right  of  the  majority  and  of  the  strongest  and  of  the  fit- 
test only  suits  those  who  feel  themselves  temporarily  to  be  part  of  the 
fit  and  the  strong  and  the  many. 

The  drys  were  misled  by  their  wide  backing  at  the  beginning  of  the 

180   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

century  by  the  middle-class  progressives  of  America.  They  were  also 
deluded  into  thinking  that  those  who  helped  them  in  the  attack  on  the 
saloon  would  also  help  them  in  the  attack  on  all  liquor.  In  their  eyes, 
the  aroused  millions  of  the  American  bourgeoisie,  particularly  the  fe- 
male of  the  species,  would  inform  on  any  transgressor  of  the  prohibi- 
tion laws.  Thus  the  work  of  enforcement  officers  would  be  a  mere  mat- 
ter of  arresting  the  guilty  few  with  the  approval  of  the  righteous  many. 
The  passing  of  the  Volstead  Act  was  to  prove  the  opposite,  that  the 
many  were  guilty  and  that  the  arrested  few  were  judged  by  the  many 
to  be  righteous.  It  was  a  formidable  miscalculation  on  the  part  of  the 
drys,  who  were  more  conscious  of  the  desirability  of  their  reform  than 
it*  possibility. 

[Moreover,  the  success  of  the  drys  went  to  their  heads.  If  they  had 
succeeded  in  prohibiting  liquor,  why  should  they  not  succeed  in  ban- 
ning other  pernicious  habits?  More  and  more,  the  drys  forgot  the  prac- 
tical limits  of  the  law  and  remembered  only  their  view  of  the  good 
of  society.  And  in  seeking  beyond  the  practical  and  the  possible  they 
made  themselves  ridiculouyThe  history  of  the  reform  crusades  against 
the  cigarette  and  jazz  are  examples  of  the  lengths  to  which  the  moral 
reformers  would  go  in  courting  failure  and  jeers.  Even  when  they  were 
successful,  as  in  the  passage  of  the  Mann  Act,  which  used  the  federal 
power  in  interstate  commerce  to  attack  the  white-slave  trade  and  for- 
nication across  state  borders,  they  were  open  to  the  sneers  of  their  ene- 
mies that,  while  they  pretended  to  regulate  the  commerce  between  the 
states,  in  fact  they  sought  "to  regulate  commerce  between  the  sexes/'5 
JFhe  anticigarette  crusade  went  hand  in  hand  with  the  fight  against 
the  saloon.  As  the  Century  said,  "The  relation  of  tobacco,  especially  in 
the  form  of  cigarettes,  and  alcohol  and  opium  is  a  very  close  one.  .  .  . 
Morphine  is  the  legitimate  consequence  of  alcohol,  and  alcohol  is  the 
legitimate  consequence  of  tobacco.  Cigarettes,  drink,  opium,  is  the 
logical  and  regular  series/'6  In  the  words  of  Dr.  Frank  Gunsaulus, 
there  was  no  "energy  more  destructive  of  soul,  mind  and  body,  or  more 
subversive  of  good  morals,  than  the  cigarette.  The  fight  against  the 
cigarette  is  a  fight  for  civilizatioiy'7  Medical  fears,  similar  to  those  ex- 
ploited by  the  drys,  were  used  as  deterrents  to  possible  smokers.  As  late 
as  November,  1930,  the  National  Advocate  printed  the  opinion  of  a 
doctor  that  "sixty  per  cent  of  all  babies  born  of  mothers  who  are  ha- 
bitual cigarette  smokers  die  before  they  are  two  years  old/'  The  oppo- 
nents of  the  cigarette  used  a  strategy  parallel  to  that  of  the  drys  —  they 
were  often  the  same  people  —  to  secure  by  1913  the  passage  of  anti- 
cigarette  laws  in  nine  states,  all  in  the  South  or  in  the  West.  The  tide 
in  favor  of  the  prohibition  of  cigarettes,  however,  receded  even  faster 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /   181 

than  the  dry  tide.  By  1929,  no  state  forbade  the  smoking  of  cigarettes 

/The  crusade  against  the  new  styles  of  dancing  and  jazz  was  another 
exercise  in  futility^  In  1914,  the  General  Federation  of  Women's  Clubs 
put  under  a  ban  the  tango  and  hesitation  waltz.8  A  clergyman  added  to 
the  proscribed  list  the  bunny  hug,  turkey  trot,  Texas  Tommy,  hug-me- 
tight,  fox  trot,  shimmy  dance,  sea-gull  swoop,  camel  walk,  and  skunk 
waltz.  The  Methodist  Church  would  not  even  approve  of  a  decorous 
dance  step  which  was  hopefully  called  the  Wesleyan  waltz.9  But  worse 
was  to  come  with  the  black  bottom  and  the  Charleston.  The  sexual 
desires  of  the  young  seemed  to  reign  on  the  dance  floor.  And  as  for  the 
growing  influence  of  jazz  on  dance  music,  the  superintendent  of  schools 
in  Kansas  City,  Missouri,  warned  a  thousand  teachers,  "This  nation  has 
been  fighting  booze  for  a  long  time.  I  am  just  wondering  whether  jazz 
isn't  going  to  have  to  be  legislated  against  as  well."|For  the  intoxicating 
influence  of  jazz  music  was  held  to  be  as  dangerous  as  that  of  alcohoj^ 
"Does  Jazz  Put  the  Sin  in  Syncopation?"  asked  Anne  Shaw  Faulkner  in 
the  Ladies9  Home  Journal  in  1921;  she  thought  it  did,  and  she  quoted  a 
musical  supervisor  of  a  large  urban  high  school  that  only  forty  out  of 
two  thousand  best-selling  songs  were  fit  for  boys  and  girls  to  sing  to- 
gether. Jazz  was  held  to  cause  a  mental  drunkenness  or,  as  Dr.  Henry 
Van  Dyke  complained,  "a  sensual  teasing  of  the  strings  of  physical  pas- 
sion."10 It  loosed  all  those  moral  restraints  which  the  drys  held  desir- 
able, and  therefore,  like  alcohol,  it  should  be  prohibited.  But  the  ad- 
vent of  the  radio  and  talking  picture  spread  the  influence  of  jazz  all 
over  the  United  States  and  gave  the  Negro  his  first  victory  in  Amenga- 
The  excesses  of  the  moral  reformers  in  these  losing  causes  did  harm 
to  the  drys.  For  moderates  were  alienated  from  all  moral  reformers. 
Moreover,  the  campaign  for  the  prohibition  of  liquor  seemed  to  many 
to  be  the  thin  end  of  the  wedge,  the  prelude  to  a  reign  of  terror  by 
moral  zealots  over  the  habits  of  America.  When  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
had  presented  its  first  petition  for  national  prohibition  as  far  back  as 
1913,  the  New  York  World  had  voiced  this  fear:  "Tomorrow  it  is  likely 
to  be  the  Anti-Cigarette  League  that  is  clamoring  for  a  constitutional 
amendment  to  prohibit  smoking,  or  the  Anti-Profanity  League  that  in- 
sists on  a  constitutional  amendment  to  prevent  swearing,  or  a  Eugenics 
Society  that  advocates  a  constitutional  amendment  to  stop  the  birth  of 
imperfect  babies."11  The  .progress  of  the  reform  crusades  against  the 
cigarette  and  the  jazzy  dance  merely  seemed  to  confirm  this  suspicion. 
The  field  of  moral  reform  seemed  to  have  been  taken  over  by  fanatics. 
Thus  all  moral  reform  suffered.  Few  people  tried  to  press  for  a  limited 
good  any  more,  a  temperate  betterment  of  a  bad  situation,  It  had  to  be 
all  or  nothing,  either  an  excess  or  a  nullification  of  moral  legislation. 

182  /THE    DRY    TREE 

During  the  dominance  of  these  concepts  of  law  and  morality,  which 
dated  from  the  views  of  the  Puritans  and  of  the  pioneers,  moderation 
and  reason  and  respect  for  all  law  suffered.  Those  who  were  terrified 
by  the  selected  laws  of  their  chosen  God  tried  to  impose  their  own 
holy  terror  on  their  fellow  citizens  through  the  law  of  men.  It  was  a 
hopeless  task  and  led  to  scoffing  at  government  and  churches.  When 
Clarence  True  Wilson  advocated  that  buyers  of  bootleg  liquor  should 
be  sentenced  to  a  maximum  of  five  years  in  prison  in  order  to  put  "the 
fear  of  God  in  the  minds  of  those  who  fear  neither  God  nor  man/'  he 
was  shaming  his  God  by  representing  Him  in  this  light  and  slandering 
his  fellow  men  who  thought  it  no  sin  to  drink.12  It  was  the  drys  who 
had  originally  held  liquor  to  be  a  sin,  and  who  claimed  that  the  dry 
law  "brought  sin"  to  all  drinkers.13  If  they  failed  to  convince  the  ma- 
jority of  their  countrymen  that  this  was  so,  the  fault  lay  in  their  teach- 
ing, not  in  the  unconverted. 


"THE  WILLINGNESS  to  exclude  the  saloon  is  largely  conditioned  by  the 
opportunity  to  secure  liquor  for  private  use/'14  This  was  the  basic  prin- 
ciple of  the  popular  support  of  prohibition.  Indeed,  the  leaders  of  the 
drys  knew  that  they  could  never  get  a  majority  of  the  American  people 
to  give  up  drinking  immediately.  They  hoped  that  a  new  generation 
of  teetotalers  would  grow  up  from  the  ranks  of  the  young,  and  that  the 
protected  drys  would  win  converts  among  the  shamed  wets. 

The  supporters  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  wanted  primarily  to 
outlaw  the  liquor  trade,  not  to  prevent  dedicated  wets  from  drinking.15 
National  prohibition  was  meant  to  stop  the  wet  cities  from  swamping 
the  dry  country;  only  then  could  there  be  a  counterattack  by  the  rural 
moralists  on  the  cities.  In  fact,  even  these  limited  hopes  of  the  drys 
were  doomed  to  disappointment.  There  was  never  any  serious  effort  to 
enforce  national  prohibition  until  the  early  thirties,  and  by  that  time  it 
was  too  late.  After  less  than  four  years  under  the  Volstead  Act,  it  was 
clear  that  "three  tremendous  popular  passions"  were  being  satisfied, 
"the  passion  of  the  prohibitionists  for  law,  the  passion  of  the  drinking 
classes  for  drink,  and  the  passion  of  the  largest  and  best-organized 
smuggling  trade  that  has  ever  existed  for  money."16  Once  legalism  had 
turned  the  possession  of  alcohol  into  a  popular  obsession  and  the  sale 
of  alcohol  into  a  new  Gold  Rush,  enforcement  of  the  liquor  laws  had 
no  chance. 

The  failure  of  the  enforcement  of  the  Volstead  Act  was  due  to  ad- 
ministrative stupidity,  political  graft,  the  federal  structure  of  the  United 
States,  an  antiquated  legal  system,  and  the  flaws  in  the  act  itself.  These 

THE    TOOTHLESS     LAW   /    183 

interlocking  and  corrigible  causes  for  failure  were  overshadowed  by 
one  overriding  consideration,  that  the  prohibition  law  could  not  be 
adequately  enforced  in  the  America  of  that  time.  Indeed,  it  is  doubtful 
that  national  prohibition  can  ever  be  enforced,  even  under  a  dictator- 
ship. Alcoholic  drinks  have  been  made  in  every  civilized  society  in  his- 
tory. The  Wickersham  Commission  itself  sadly  conceded,  "Few  things 
are  more  easily  made  than  alcohol."17  The  job  of  the  Prohibition  Bu- 
reau was  to  enforce  the  impossible.  But  it  could  have  made  a  better 
job  of  this  impossible  task.  The  chase  of  bootleg  liquor  by  prohibition 
agents  too  often  resembled  the  chase  of  foxes  by  Oscar  Wilde's  hunt- 
ers, a  case  of  the  unspeakable  in  full  pursuit  of  the  undrinkable. 

The  Prohibition  Bureau  was  always  the  tool  of  national  and  state 
politics.  In  evidence  given  before  the  Wickersham  Commission,  it  was 
said  that  the  pressure  exerted  on  the  Washington  headquarters  of  the 
Bureau  was  "greater  at  times  than  any  group  of  men  could  be  expected 
wholly  to  withstand."  Congressmen  had  insisted  upon  the  appointment 
or  transfer  of  men  within  the  service.  Political  organizations  had  triq$l 
to  accelerate  or  retard  enforcement  in  given  areas  in  accord  with  the 
dictates  of  political  expediency.  Large  and  powerful  trade  associations 
had  tried  to  force  the  Bureau  to  look  after  their  particular  needs.18 
Moreover,  the  Prohibition  Bureau  itself  was  continually  kept  short  of 
men,  money,  and  supplies  by  a  cheeseparing  Congress.  If  Americans 
got  the  political  representatives  they  deserved,  they  also  got  the  pro- 
hibition agents  they  deserved. 

While  the  Volstead  Ac' .  A  pending  in  Congress,  the  Commissioner 
of  Internal  Revenue  protesteehagainst  being  given  the  responsibility  for 
enforcing  such  a  thankless  measure.  He  said  that  there  could  be  no 
sort  of  adequate  enforcement  unless  the  Prohibition  Bureau  had  the 
fullest  co-operation  from  state  policemen,  churches,  civic  organizations, 
educational  societies,  charitable  and  philanthropic  societies,  and  all  the 
law-abiding  citizens  of  the  United  States.  The  Commissioner  stressed 
hopefully  that  it  was  "the  right  of  the  Government  officers  charged 
with  the  enforcement  of  this  law  to  expect  the  assistance  and  moral 
support  of  every  citizen,  in  upholding  the  law,  regardless  of  personal 
conviction/'19  Unfortunately,  the  majority  of  American  citizens  con- 
ceived of  other  rights  —  the  right  to  patronize  the  bootlegger  or  speak- 
easy of  their  choice,  and  the  right  to  keep  mum  about  the  drinking 
habits  of  their  neighbors.  Where  the  duty  to  inform  on  bootleggers 
was  widely  considered  to  be  a  wrong,  prohibition  agents  could  expect 
little  support. 

The  very  organization  and  methods  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  were 
hopelessly  inadequate.  The  Bureau  was  not  under  Civil  Service  rules. 
The  salaries  of  prohibition  agents  compared  unfavorably  with  those  of 

184   /  THE    DBY    TREE 

garbage  collectors.  This  low  pay  made  the  agents  easy  victims  to  cor- 
ruption. The  total  number  of  agents  and  investigators  employed  in 
prohibition  enforcement  varied  between  1500  and  2300  men  for  the 
whole  of  the  United  States,  and  the  entire  staff  of  the  Bureau  never 
exceeded  4500  men.  The  normal  rate  of  pay  for  -agents  was  between 
$1200  and  $2000  a  year  in  1920,  and  $2300  a  year  in  1930.20  For 
this  inadequate  wage,  they  were  expected  to  work  long  hours  and  put 
their  lives  in  danger  from  the  attacks  of  armed  bootleggers.  When  the 
bribes  offered  for  a  month's  co-operation  in  winking  at  the  actions  of 
large  bootlegging  rings  might  total  over  one  million  dollars,  prohibi- 
tion agents  were  sorely  tempted  not  to  clip  the  wings  of  the  goose 
which  laid  the  golden  eggs.21  In  the  first  eleven  years  of  the  Prohibition 
Bureau,  there  were  17,972  appointments  to  the  service,  11,982  separa- 
tions from  the  service  without  prejudice,  and  1604  dismissals  for  cause.* 
The  grounds  of  these  dismissals  included  "bribery,  extortion,  theft, 
violation  of  the  National  Prohibition  Act,  falsification  of  records,  con- 
spiracy, forgery,  perjury  and  other  causes."  And  these  were  not  all  the 
cases  of  corruption,  for,  in  the  words  of  the  Wickersham  Commission, 
"bribery  and  similar  offenses  are  from  their  nature  extremely  difficult 
of  discovery  and  proof."22 

The  rapid  turnover  in  the  prohibition  service,  and  the  notoriety  of 
some  of  its  agents,  gave  it  a  bad  name.  One  disgruntled  prohibition 
administrator  called  the  Bureau  "a  training  school  for  bootleggers/*  be- 
cause of  the  frequency  with  which  agents  left  the  service  to  sell  their 
expert  knowledge  to  their  old  enemies.23  The  reasons  for  having  such 
poorly  qualified  agents  in  the  Bureau  are  hardly  surprising,  since  the 
Bureau  was  run  for  eight  years  on  the  spoils  system,  and  since  there 
was  no  effort  to  give  even  the  key  men  in  the  Bureau  special  training 
for  their  jobs  until  1927.  The  bootleggers  had  more  than  a  hundred 
times  the  appropriation  of  the  Bureau  at  their  disposal,  and  were  far 
better  organized.  The  inadequate  were  forced  by  their  country  to  pur- 
sue the  prepared.  When  drastic  attempts  were  made  to  reform  the  Bu- 
reau by  President  Hoover  after  1929,  it  was  already  too  late.  Too  many 
urban  Americans  had  become  disgusted  with  the  petty  thieveries  of  the 
whole  service.  They  shared  the  opinion  of  Stanley  Walker,  the  city  edi- 
tor of  the  New  York  Herald  Tribune,  that,  although  there  were  always 
some  good  prohibition  agents  such  as  Izzy  Einstein  and  Moe  Smith, 
"as  a  class,  however,  they  made  themselves  offensive  beyond  words, 
and  their  multifarious  doings  made  them  the  pariahs  of  New  York/'24 

An  efficient  enforcement  agency  demands  three  things:  continuity  of 

*  Roughly,  one  in  twelve  agents  was  dismissed  for  cause.  The  explanation  of  one 
of  the  dry  Senators  from  Oklahoma  was  that,  after  all,  "One  out  of  twelve  of  the 
disciples  went  wrong." 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /    185 

personnel,  large  enough  salaries  to  make  graft  unnecessary,  and  public 
and  federal  co-operation.  The  Prohibition  Bureau  had  none  of  these 
three  essentials.  The  first  Prohibition  Commissioner,  an  Ohio  lawyer, 
John  F.  Kramer,  served  for  a  year  and  a  half.  His  promise  that  he 
would  see  that  liquor  was  not  manufactured,  "nor  sold,  nor  given  away, 
nor  hauled  in  anything  on  the  surface  of  the  earth  nor  under  the  sea 
nor  in  the  air'*  was  not  put  to  the  test  in  his  short  term.23  His  successor, 
Roy  A.  Haynes,  was  endorsed  by  dry  Congressman  Upshaw  as  a  man 
of  "amazing  genius  and  energy  in  organization."26  His  four  years*  ten- 
ure of  office  did  not  demonstrate  these  qualities.  His  personal  press  re- 
leases preached  the  imminent  collapse  of  bootlegging,  while  his  politi- 
cal appointees  made  the  Prohibition  Bureau  a  center  of  graft  and 
corruption.  All  that  could  be  said  of  his  term  was  that  the  scandals 
which  took  place  in  the  Prohibition  Bureau  were  nothing,  compared 
with  the  scandals  which  took  place  in  the  Department  of  Justice,  under 
the  benevolent  gutting  of  Harry  Daugherty  and  the  Ohio  Gang.  Dur- 
ing the  regime  of  President  Harding,  the  Volstead  Act  merely  provided 
a  fertile  field  for  the  private  profit  of  certain  members  of  the  govern- 
ment. The  Ohio  Gang  dealt  in  protection  to  bootleggers,  illegal  with- 
drawals of  bonded  liquor,  pardons  and  paroles  for  ready  cash,  prosecu- 
tions dropped  for  a  price,  and  even  in  federal  offices  for  sale.  Law 
enforcement  became  open  robbery.* 

The  failure  of  Haynes  to  achieve  anything  more  than  a  confident 
manner  and  a  few  spectacular  raids  on  New  York  hotels  made  Coolidge 
appoint  a  new  head  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau,  a  retired  General,  Lin- 
coln C.  Andrews.  Although  Haynes  kept  his  official  position,  Andrews 
was  given  all  real  authority.  He  immediately  attempted  to  reorganize 
the  Prohibition  Bureau  on  military  lines  and  to  drive  all  political  influ- 
ence from  the  service.  Senator  "Sunny  Jim**  Watson  commented  cyni- 
cally, "It  can't  be  done,"  and  he  was  right.  General  Andrews  could  not 
drive  the  political  spoilsmen  out  of  the  Bureau.  For,  in  the  words  of  a 
contemporary  reporter,  "the  venerable  pie  counter  is  firmly  fastened 
and  the  ancient  plum  tree  is  indeed  deeply  rooted."27  The  General's 
reorganization  was  largely  a  paper  job;  America  was  divided  up  into 
twenty-four  districts,  and  some  retired  officers  from  the  Army  and 

*  The  Volstead  Act  was  used  by  the  Ohio  Gang  as  a  protection  racket.  A  file 
from  the  Department  of  Justice  listed  convicted  bootleggers,  who  could  be  sold 
pardons.  Special  agent  Gaston  B.  Means  testified  that  he  collected  some  $7,000,000 
from  bootleggers  in  a  goldfish  bowl  to  square  the  Department  of  Justice.  George 
Remus,  the  so-called  King  of  the  Bootleggers,  who  was  estimated  to  have  made  a 
gross  profit  of  $40,000,000  from  bootlegging,  testified  that  he  paid  more  than  $250,- 
000  to  a  member  of  the  Ohio  Gang.  Even  so,  he  was  prosecuted  and  sent  to  jail. 
He  commented  sourly,  "I  tried  to  corner  the  graft  market,  only  to  find  that  there 
is  not  enough  money  in  the  world  to  buy  up  all  the  public  officials  who  demand  a 
share  in  the  graft." 

186   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

Navy  joined  the  prohibition  service.  General  Andrews  resigned  in 
March,  1927,  after  offending  the  politicians  and  the  drys  by  his  forth- 
right statements,  including  one  admission  before  a  Senate  subcommit- 
tee in  1926  that  his  task  would  be  greatly  simplified  by  the  modifica- 
tion of  the  Volstead  Act  to  permit  the  sale  of  light  wines  and  beer. 
Major  Chester  P.  Mills,  one  of  General  Andrew's  officers  in  New  York, 
estimated  that  three-quarters  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  at  the  time 
were  "ward  heelers  and  sycophants  named  by  the  politicians."28 

The  successors  of  General  Andrews  were  the  Assistant  Secretary  of 
the  Treasury,  Seymour  Lowman,  and  the  chief  chemist  of  the  Prohibi- 
tion Bureau,  James  M.  Doran.  The  whole  service  was  made  to  take  the 
Civil  Service  examination,  for  "there  were  scores  of  prohibition  agents 
no  more  fit  to  be  trusted  with  a  commission  to  enforce  the  laws  of  the 
United  States  and  to  carry  a  gun  than  the  notorious  bandit  Jesse 
James/'29  The  result  of  the  examination,  which  was  the  standard  test, 
was  shocking.  Only  two-fifths  of  those  in  the  Prohibition  Bureau  could 
pass  the  test  after  two  attempts.  Most  of  the  remainder  were  dismissed 
and  replaced.  Not  until  1930  was  a  beginning  made  in  setting  up  a 
stable  body  of  men  prepared  to  enforce  prohibition.  When  the  average 
length  of  tenure  in  the  most  difficult  of  the  top  administrative  posts  of 
the  service  was  six  months,  and  the  prohibition  commissioners  them- 
selves were  not  continued  long  in  office,  there  was  no  hope  of  enforc- 
ing the  unpopular  dry  laws.80  By  1929,  the  state  of  New  Jersey  had 
vanquished  fourteen  prohibition  administrators,  and  had  gained  an  ac- 
colade from  a  poet  in  the  New  York  Times: 

One  by  one  they  interfere 
With  those  Jersey  tides  of  beer; 
Manfully  they  face  the  flood, 
Then,  alast  their  name  is  mud. 
Heroes  for  a  little  day, 
One  by  one  they  pass  away.*1 

But  if  there  were  replacements  and  conflicts  within  the  Prohibition 
Bureau,  there  were  still  more  conflicts  with  other  law  enforcement 
agencies  of  the  federal  government.  The  Customs  Service  and  the 
Coast  Guard  had  a  long  and  proud  tradition  of  policing  the  American 
borders,  and  they  were  unwilling  to  share  their  knowledge  with  the 
upstart  Prohibition  Bureau.  The  border  patrols  of  the  Bureau  of  Immi- 
gration, formed  in  1925,  were  also  unco-operative,  except  when  boot- 
leggers also  happened  to  be  aliens.  Rivalry  between  the  services  and 
the  "wholesome  disgust"  of  the  other  services  for  the  despised  Prohibi- 
tion Bureau  added  to  the  difficulties  of  the  enforcers  of  die  dry  laws.82 

jlgg^  '--'-• 

^^?.£^  -« 

%^^^*^^~ cwrtesy  rf  ^  st  LQuis  po^a,ch  by  Patrick 


Certain  methods  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  gave  it  still  more ^dis- 
repute The  disguises  of  Izzy  and  Moe  as  undertakers  or  baseball  play- 

ping  did  not  make  the  American  people  think  better  of  the  Bureau.  The 

188   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

fact  that  the  chemists  of  the  Bureau  approved  of  putting  poisonous 
denaturants  in  industrial  alcohol,  which  might  easily  be  diverted  into 
the  bootleg  market,  made  them  seem  accomplices  in  murder.  And  the 
final  folly  of  the  prohibition  service  was  to  run  a  speak-easy  of  its  own 
at  the  taxpayers'  expense,  the  Bridge  Whist  Club  at  14  East  Forty- 
fourth  Street,  New  York;  the  club  sold  liquor  to  all  comers  for  six 
months  and  trapped  a  few  bootleggers.  But  the  spectacle  of  the  Prohibi- 
tion Bureau  spreading  the  bad  habits  which  it  was  charged  to  prevent 
was  too  much  for  the  country.  The  Bridge  Whist  Club  was  closed 
down,  and  the  expense  accounts  for  the  undercover  agents*  drinking 
were  lopped. 

But  worst  of  all  was  the  direct  murder  of  innocent  citizens  by  pro- 
hibition agents.  In  the  opening  days  of  the  Volstead  Act,  there  were 
shooting  affrays  between  agents  and  bootleggers.  By  1923,  thirty  pro- 
hibition agents  had  already  been  killed;  Roy  Haynes  called  them  "our 
little  band  of  martyrs/'38  Yet  the  gunplay  was  confined,  more  or  less,  to 
the  agents  and  violators  of  the  liquor  law.  Unfortunately,  mistakes  of 
prohibition  agents  resulted  in  the  killing  of  women  and  children,  and 
the  serious  wounding  of  Senator  Greene,  of  Vermont,  in  Washington 
itself.  The  innocent  deaths  of  Mrs.  Lillian  DeKing,  whose  small  son  re- 
taliated by  shooting  the  responsible  dry  agent  in  the  leg,  of  Henry  Vir- 
kula,  shot  down  while  driving  his  family  in  Minnesota,  and  of  Mildred 
Lee  and  Sheridan  Bradshaw,  a  girl  of  eleven  years  and  a  boy  of  eight, 
made  dry  agents  loathed  everywhere.  In  a  popular  pamphlet,  the  Asso- 
ciation Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment  claimed  that  more  than  a 
thousand  people  in  ten  years  had  been  killed  outright  in  the  prohibi- 
tion war  between  the  law  enforcers  and  the  violators.  Official  records 
admitted  the  deaths  of  286  federal  officers  and  private  citizens  during 
this  period;  the  officers  had  killed  the  civilians  at  a  ratio  of  one  officer 
to  every  three  citizens.84 

The  government  showed  its  feelings  by  sending  federal  attorneys  to 
defend  prohibition  agents  accused  of  murder.  The  officers  of  the  law 
were  rarely  convicted,  even  in  the  most  flagrant  cases  of  slaughter.  The 
Association  Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment  investigated  184  kill- 
ings of  citizens  by  prohibition  agents;  only  six  of  the  agents  were  con- 
victed of  any  crime,  and  only  one  of  murder  in  the  second  degree.  The 
government  seemed  to  be  sanctioning  indiscriminate  killing  by  its  offi- 
cers. Although  various  directives  were  sent  out  ordering  agents  to  be 
careful  before  shooting,  the  whole  service  seemed  to  be  too  quick  on 
the  draw.  "What  the  prohibition  situation  needs/'  wrote  Jane  Addams, 
"first  of  all,  is  disarmament/'35  Only  after  the  Prohibition  Bureau  had 
been  transferred  to  the  Department  of  Justice,  and  the  reasonable  rule 
of  Dr.  A.  W.  W.  Woodcock,  was  there  any  cessation  in  the  shooting.36 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW  /   189 

But  it  was  already  too  late.  Too  many  dry  leaders  had  made  imfortu- 
njite  remarks  similar  to  that  of  Senator  Brookhart,  of  Iowa,  that  the 
protests  against  the  killings  were  simply  "gush  stuff  about  murders  by 
men  who  make  mistakes  once  in  a  while/'37  *  Cartoons,  editorials,  and 
sneering  poems  reflected  widespread  public  disgust.  Perhaps  the  wit- 
tiest of  these  protests  was  "The  Patriot's  Prayer,"  written  by  Arthur 

Now  I  lay  me  down  to  sleep  — 
My  life  and  limb  may  Hoover  keep, 
And  may  no  coast  guard  cutter  shell 
This  little  home  I  love  so  well. 
May  no  dry  agent,  shooting  wild, 
Molest  mine  wife  and  infant  child, 
Or,  searching  out  some  secret  still, 
Bombard  my  home  to  maim  and  kill. 
When  dawn  succeeds  the  gleaming  stars, 
May  we,  devoid  of  wounds  and  scars, 
Give  thanks  we  didn't  fall  before 
The  shots  in  Prohibitions  War. 

The  drys  always  maintained  that  national  prohibition  had  never  had 
a  fair  trial,  because  there  was  no  real  attempt  at  enforcement  until  ten 
years  of  bungled  efforts  had  exhausted  the  tolerance  of  the  public.  To 
Senator  Neely,  of  West  Virginia,  "a  thought,  a  hope,  or  a  dream  of 
satisfactory  enforcement  of  prohibition"  with  Andrew  Mellon  holding 
the  position  of  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  was  "as  idle  as  a  painted 
ship  upon  a  painted  ocean."  Since  Mellon  had  had  millions  of  dollars 
invested  in  the  liquor  trade  before  prohibition,  it  was  useless  to  expect 
him  to  enforce  the  dry  law.  "Obviously,  a  thief  will  never  enforce  the 
law  against  larcency;  a  pyromaniac  will  never  enforce  the  law  against 
arson;  a  distiller  or  brewer  will  never  enforce  the  Volstead  Act."38 
With  the  wets  powerful  in  every  Republican  Cabinet,  what  hope  was 
there  of  a  zealous  prosecution  of  the  dry  law? 

The  drys  did  not  mention,  however,  the  role  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  in  exempting  the  Prohibition  Bureau  from  Civil  Service  rules, 
in  backing  its  inclusion  in  the  Treasury  rather  than  in  the  Department 
of  Justice,  and  in  appointing  fellow  citizens  from  Ohio  to  top  posts  in 
the  Bureau.  The  fairest  comment  on  the  matter  was  made  in  the  Wick- 
ersham  Report,  that  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the  National  Pro- 
hibition Act  came  into  existence  "at  the  time  best  suited  for  their  adop- 
tion and  at  the  worst  time  for  their  enforcement"39  The  political  tri- 

*  Mrs.  Ella  Boole,  president  of  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union,  was 
reported  as  the  author  of  an  even  more  unfortunate  remark  about  the  murdered 
Mrs.  DeKing,  "Well,  she  was  evading  the  law,  wasn't  she?" 

190   /THE    DRY    TREE 

umph  of  the  drys  was  not,  and  could  not  be,  translated  into  a  social 
victory.  In  fact/if  an  army  of  federal  agents  had  been  raised  to  insist 
on  the  observance  of  the  Volstead  Act  in  the  wet  cities,  it  is  probable 
that  repeal  would  have  come  about  even  sooner.  When  Hoover  began 
to  enforce  prohibition  with  some  efficiency,  he  dried  up  its  support  as 
well  as  supplies  of  bootleg  liquor. 

The  statistics  of  prohibition  enforcement  show  the  increasing  effi- 
ciency of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  and  the  increasing  volume  of  the 
bootleg  trade.  In  1921,  a  total  of  95,933  illicit  distilleries,  stills,  still 
worms,  and  fermenters  were  seized;  this  total  rose  to  172,537  by  1925 
and  to  282,122  by  1930,  In  the  latter  year,  some  forty  million  gallons  of 
distilled  spirits,  malt  liquor,  wine,  cider,  mash,  and  pomace  were  also 
seized.  The  number  of  convictions  for  liquor  offenses  in  federal  courts, 
which  had  averaged  about  35,000  a  year  after  1922,  showed  a  startling 
jump  under  the  Hoover  administration  to  a  maximum  of  61,383  in 
1932.  Jail  sentences,  which  reached  a  total  of  only  11,818  by  1927, 
rocketed  to  44,678  in  1932,  finally  demonstrating,  as  President  Hoover 
himself  wrote,  "the  futility  of  the  whole  business."40 

President  Hoover  reckoned  later  that  the  federal  government  could 
not  have  come  anywhere  near  enforcing  prohibition  with  a  police  force 
of  less  than  a  quarter  of  a  million  men.  Yet  even  his  small  efforts  at 
enforcement  were  enough  to  write  the  death  warrant  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment.  Prohibition  had  developed  from  a  joke  into  a  threat  to  all 
and  sundry.  While  the  situation  in  large  cities  was  "not  enforcement 
but  a  sort  of  safe  regulation  of  the  liquor-selling  traffic"  through  the 
co-operation  of  criminals  and  policemen  against  interlopers  and  price 
cutters,  the  drinkers  were  not  worried.41  But  the  moment  that  efficient 
federal  agents  began  to  put  respectable  citizens  in  jail,  the  situation 
became  intolerable.  Although  bad  enforcement  disgusted  America 
with  prohibition,  it  was  good  enforcement  which  helped  to  cause  the 
revolt  of  repeal. 


THE  FLAWS  in  the  Volstead  Act  were  quickly  revealed  by  the  methods 
used  by  bootleggers  to  circumvent  it.  The  clause  relating  to  industrial 
alcohol  allowed  fake  denaturing  plants  to  divert  the  alcohol  into  boot- 
leg channels  by  permitting  the  establishment  of  denaturing  plants  any- 
where in  the  United  States,  once  a  bond  had  been  filed  and  a  permit 
issued.  In  1929,  Major  Mills  testified  that  the  major  part  of  bootleg 
liquor  in  circulation  came  from  diverted  industrial  alcohol.  His  testi- 
mony is  accurate  for  the  middle  years  of  prohibition,  although  home- 

THE    TOOTHLESS     LAW   /    191 

brew  was  the  major  source  of  supply  by  the  end.  And  the  home-brew- 
ing of  wine  and  beer  was  itself  legal  under  the  Volstead  Act,  although 
the  regulations  of  the  prohibition  unit  proscribed  the  making  of  "non- 
intoxicating  cider  and  fruit-juices"  from  dried  fruits,  dandelions,  and 
rhubarb.  Moreover,  the  legal  manufacture  of  real  beer,  before  its  alco- 
hol was  removed  and  it  was  turned  into  near-beer,  allowed  the  makers 
to  divert  large  quantities  of  genuine  ale  into  the  ever-thirsty  market. 

The  clauses  dealing  with  medicinal  and  sacramental  alcohol  in  the 
act  provided  more  illicit  liquor  in  America.  In  the  House  debate,  Con- 
gressmen had  voiced  their  fears  of  scalawag  and  jackleg  physicians,  al- 
though no  one  foresaw  the  possibility  of  bootlegging  ministers.42  The 
testimony  of  Dr.  Bevan  that  doctors  made  roughly  $40,000,000  in  1928 
by  writing  medical  prescriptions  for  whisky,  the  opposition  of  the  Na- 
tional Association  of  Retail  Druggists  to  the  vast  profits  of  the  speak- 
easy drugstores,  and  proof  that  even  sacramental  wine  often  reached 
the  dinner  table  rather  than  the  communion  cup  provided  damning 
evidence  against  these  loopholes  in  the  Volstead  Act.43 

Moreover,  the  transfer  of  the  duties  of  enforcement  to  the  Treasury 
Department  rather  than  to  the  Department  of  Justice  was  ill-advised. 
Wayne  B.  Wheeler  had  originally  insisted  upon  this  for  various  rea- 
sons. "The  Internal  Revenue  Commissioner  is  obviously  the  choice  for 
the  chief  law  enforcement  official.  The  reason  for  this  is  that  this  de- 
partment has  dealt  with  the  liquor  traffic  through  many  years.  The 
machinery  is  already  built."44  There  was  a  further  motive  behind 
Wheeler's  insistence.  While  the  Volstead  Act  was  pending,  the  Com- 
missioner had  complained  that  his  department  was  already  overbur- 
dened with  the  fiscal  and  revenue  problems  of  the  government  Thus 
Wheeler  could  volunteer  unofficially  to  relieve  the  Treasury  of  the 
burden  of  its  duties  relating  to  prohibition  enforcement.  He  could, 
then,  personally  organize,  check,  and  staff  the  Prohibition  Bureau.  And 
this  he  largely  did.  During  the  administration  of  President  Harding  (a 
fellow  citizen  from  Ohio,  who  was  beholden  to  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
for  many  political  services)  and  during  the  administration  of  President 
Coolidge,  Wheeler  was  the  clearinghouse  for  most  appointments  to  the 
Prohibition  Bureau  through  the  agency  of  his  contact,  Roy  A.  Haynes, 
the  Prohibition  Commissioner.  Unsuccessful  petitions  were  made  in 
1921  and  1924  to  transfer  prohibition  enforcement  to  the  Department 
of  Justice.  But  these  recommendations  were  resisted  by  Wheeler 
through  his  influence  in  Congress.  He  feared  he  would  lose  his  power 
over  appointments.  Not  until  the  death  of  Wheeler  and  the  prelimi- 
nary report  of  the  Wickersham  Commission  in  1929  was  the  Depart- 
ment of  Justice  given  the  duty  of  enforcing  the  Eighteenth  Amend- 
ment. But  it  was  already  the  evening  of  prohibition. 

192   /THE    DRY    TREE 

Other  deficiencies  in  the  Volstead  Act  were  evident  in  the  prosecu- 
tion of  offenders.  There  was  bad  liaison  between  the  Prohibition  Bu- 
reau and  the  United  States  attorneys,  and  between  the  United  States 
attorneys  and  the  federal  judges.  The  old  tradition  that  indictment  in 
a  federal  court  was  tantamount  to  conviction  and  proper  punishment 
did  not  apply  to  prohibition  cases.  Many  cases  were  dismissed  because 
the  Prohibition  Bureau  was  held  to  have  exceeded  its  legal  powers 
while  collecting  evidence.  Other  cases  were  voided  on  technicalities. 
Some  federal  judges  were  obviously  out  of  sympathy  with  the  Volstead 
Act  and  used  its  complex  and  verbose  phrasing  to  acquit  offenders. 
The  penalties  for  breaking  the  law  were  not  sufficient  to  deter  large- 
scale  bootleggers  and  first  offenders.  Not  until  the  passage  of  the  Jones 
Act  in  1929,  which  supplemented  the  Volstead  Act  by  providing  for  a 
maximum  penalty  of  five  years  in  jail  and  a  fine  of  $10,000  for  first 
offenders,  did  the  law  acquire  teetk  enough  to  deter  those  in  search  of 
easy  money  from  bootlegging. 

This  was  not  the  end  of  the  catalogue  of  errors  in  the  Volstead  Act. 
Although  court  injunctions  to  padlock  for  one  year  any  place  dis- 
covered selling  liquor  were  the  most  helpful  tool  of  the  Prohibition 
Bureau,  their  use  was  blunted  by  the  provisions  of  the  act.  Judges 
were  not  required  to  issue  injunctions,  but  recommended  to  issue 
them.  Also,  the  injunctions  had  to  be  served  on  the  owners  of  the 
property  which  was  being  used  as  a  speak-easy  or  bootleg  factory,  and 
these  owners  were  often  absent.  Moreover,  the  act  prevented  prohibi- 
tion agents  from  confiscating  the  cars  of  bootleggers  if  the  license  of 
the  car  was  made  out  in  the  name  of  a  company  which  could  plead 
ignorance  of  the  illegal  use  of  its  property.  And,  above  all,  enforce- 
ment was  well-nigh  impossible  when  purchasers  of  bootleg  liquor 
could  not  be  held  for  conspiracy. 

The  Volstead  Act  was  a  hodgepodge  of  cunning  and  compromise, 
and  it  produced  a  hodgepodge  of  enforcement  and  evasion  of  national 


THE  PROBLEM  of  law  enforcement  in  the  United  States  also  lay  in  the 
divisions  between  and  within  the  states.  The  states  had  many  more 
police  officers  than  the  federal  government  had  — a  total  of  some 
175,000  officers  of  the  law  in  1930.  But  these  officers  were  badly  paid 
and  overworked,  in  the  interest  of  low  taxes.  The  states  also  had  differ- 
ent opinions,  laws,  and  judicial  practices  from  those  of  the  federal 
government.  In  these  discrepancies,  evasion  of  the  consequences  of  the 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW/   193 

law,  particularly  of  the  prohibition  law,  flourished.  National  prohibi- 
tion needed  central  control  if  there  was  to  be  any  efficient  enforcement. 
This  central  control  was  impossible  when  a  major  part  of  enforcement 
was  left  to  the  individual  states. 

Most  of  the  states  passed  laws  to  supplement  the  Volstead  Act,  by 
making  evasion  of  the  dry  law  a  state  crime  as  well  as  a  federal  crime. 
Sixteen  states  defined  the  word  "intoxicating"  even  more  stringently 
than  did  the  Volstead  Act.  Other  states  forbade  the  possession  of  liquor. 
Some  gave  the  state  police  greater  powers  of  search  and  seizure.  In 
Indiana,  jewelers  were  forbidden  to  display  cocktail  shakers  or  pocket 
flasks  in  their  windows.  In  Michigan,  the  savage  Baumes  Law  made 
violation  of  the  liquor  laws  for  the  fourth  time  punishable  by  life  im- 
prisonment; a  mother  of  ten  children  was  so  sentenced  for  possessing 
one  quart  of  gin.  But,  in  general,  there  was  an  unmistakable  hiatus  in 
the  states  between  the  law  and  its  enforcement43  A  drastic  law  was  all 
very  well;  but  the  fact  that  the  states  never  appropriated  more  than  a 
pittance  for  enforcement  or  for  policemen  or  for  additional  courts  of 
judgment  drew  the  teeth  from  these  drastic  laws. 

The  Mullan-Gage  Law  is  a  good  example.  The  New  York  legislature 
passed  this  law  to  supplement  the  Volstead  Act  in  1921,  and  failed  to 
appropriate  any  money  to  enforce  its  provisions.  Within  a  week,  the 
courts  of  the  state  were  clogged  up  with  liquor  cases.  Nearly  90  per 
cent  of  the  accused  were  dismissed  by  the  courts;  7  per  cent  pleaded 
guilty;  only  20  cases  out  of  nearly  7000  resulted  in  a  trial  by  jury,  con- 
viction, and  jail  sentence.46  When  Alfred  E.  Smith  signed  the  repeal  of 
the  law  in  1923,  making  New  York  the  first  state  to  confess  to  the  utter 
failure  of  state  prohibition  enforcement,  the  impossibility  of  the  job 
had  already  been  demonstrated.  Prohibition  could  not  be  enforced  in 
large  urban  areas  unless  vast  sums  were  set  aside  by  the  legislatures 
for  the  purpose,  and  no  legislature  in  the  United  States  would  do  this. 

Not  only  did  the  states  fail  to  enforce  their  own  prohibition  laws, 
but  often  they  prevented  the  federal  prohibition  agents  from  doing 
their  duty.  Over  and  over  again,  zealous  prohibition  officers  found 
themselves  transferred  or  removed  from  their  jobs  because  state  politi- 
cians were  annoyed  by  their  efficiency.  In  Massachusetts,  the  chief 
prohibition  officer  raided  a  Republican  party  banquet  where  liquor 
was  being  served;  his  own  superior  officer  in  the  Prohibition  Bureau 
was  there,  and  the  zealous  subordinate  was  removed  for  his  pains.47  In 
New  Jersey,  a  new  dry  officer,  who  pictured  himself  as  the  "prohibition 
St.  Patrick/'  found  himself  in  a  "whirlpool  of  disloyalty,  intrigue,  es- 
pionage within  and  without  the  service,  graft,  lack  of  support  from 
Washington,  lack  of  sympathy  of  the  public,  double-crossing  every- 

194   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

where,  and  cut-throat  tactics";  after  months  of  the  most  strenuous  ef- 
fort, the  new  officer  found  that  he  had  only  accomplished  one  thing  - 
he  had  raised  the  price  of  liquor  and  reduced  its  quality.48  In  Philadel- 
phia, the  formidable  General  Smedley  D.  Butler  made  a  valiant  at- 
tempt to  dry  up  the  city.  But  he  left  his  post  before  his  two  years  were 
ended,  since  he  found  that  the  job  was  impossible.  He  had  arrested 
more  than  6000  people,  but  only  212  had  been  convicted  in  the  courts. 
In  his  opinion,  enforcement  had  not  "amounted  to  a  row  of  pins  after 
the  arrests  were  made."49 

The  federal  prosecuting  attorney  in  Philadelphia  wrote  a  sad  chroni- 
cle of  how  national  prohibition  destroyed  the  morale  of  the  law  in  city 
and  state.  To  him,  the  law  had  been  respected  and  moderately  efficient 
before  the  Volstead  Act.  Afterwards  it  became  corrupt  and  unwork- 
able. The  ingenious  provisions  of  the  dry  laws  "simply  added  infinite 
variety  to  the  means  of  crookedness.  It  wasn't  only  the  law  that  was 
broken,  it  was  every  rule  of  ordinary  decency  among  men."  The  whole 
of  the  legal  system  of  Philadelphia  became  demoralized  within  a  year. 
Political  leaders  fought  for  the  office  of  the  state  director  of  prohibi- 
tion, who  "could  control  numerous  highly  desirable  appointments, 
could  afford  protection  to  favored  persons  and  provide  permits  in  pay- 
ment of  political  debts,  and,  what  was  still  more  important,  could  col- 
lect unlimited  sums  of  money  for  campaign  purposes."  So  many  re- 
spectable people  became  involved  in  the  graft  of  prohibition  enforce- 
ment in  Pennsylvania  that  it  seemed  that  "the  community  was  in  a 
vast  conspiracy  against  itself/'50 

With  a  honeycomb  of  graft  sweetening  the  integrity  of  whole  states, 
with  prohibition  enforcement  allied  to  the  political  needs  of  party  ma- 
chines, with  state  policemen  demoralized  by  the  billions  of  dollars  in 
the  bootleg  business,  it  was  vain  to  expect  too  much  from  local  officers 
of  the  law.  If  the  federal  government  wanted  to  enforce  prohibition,  it 
would  have  to  go  it  alone.  Wayne  Wheeler  might  appeal  to  the  states 
to  co-operate  with  the  Prohibition  Bureau  in  the  matter,  but  the  states 
were  deaf  to  his  appeal.  Indeed,  the  doctrine  of  states'  rights  was  antag- 
onistic to  federal  interference  in  any  of  the  affairs  of  the  states.  Wheeler 
could  say  with  some  truth  that  "only  when  some  hoary  and  lucrative 
evil  custom  is  attacked  do  the  champions  of  organized  vice  or  crime 
arise  and  call  high  heaven  to  witness  that  the  sacred  rights  of  the  states 
are  being  violated  if  the  white  slave  traffic,  the  drug  evil,  gambling  or 
booze  are  placed  outside  the  pale  of  the  law."51  But  the  fact  was  that 
the  states  would  not  help  federal  agents  over  prohibition,  unless  they 
wanted  to  do  so.  There  could  be  no  compulsion  of  an  unwilling  state, 
short  of  Civil  War. 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW  /   195 

In  the  voluminous  pages  of  the  Wickersham  Report,  the  efficacy  of 
law  enforcement  in  the  various  states  is  related.  Many  of  the  testimo- 
nies from  the  states  are  disappointing,  merely  reflecting  the  wish  ful- 
fillments of  the  officers  of  the  law.  Other  testimonies  show  the  despair 
of  those  set  to  enforce  the  Volstead  Act.  Above  all,  a  picture  of  the 
local  nature  of  prohibition  enforcement  comes  out  of  the  document. 
Obedience  to  the  law  and  the  actions  of  its  officers  varied  from  town 
to  town,  from  one  officer  to  another.  In  Florida,  for  instance,  enforce- 
ment was  very  poor  in  Miami  and  Tampa,  but  good  wherever  the  Cus- 
toms Service  had  jurisdiction.  In  Colorado,  twenty-five  out  of  twenty- 
six  grand  jurors  of  high  character  admitted  that  they  drank  liquor.  In 
Georgia,  the  state  superintendent  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  could 
testify  that  the  state  was  rapidly  becoming  dry,  while  speak-easies  and 
brothels  were  run  openly  in  Macon.  In  the  dry  Senator  Borah's  home 
state  of  Idaho,  enforcement  was  spotty,  with  a  United  States  marshal 
complaining  about  the  laws  that  Borah  had  helped  to  pass,  "The  more 
laws  we  have,  the  easier  it  is  for  the  bootlegger  to  escape.  We  need 
simple  laws  like  the  Commandments,  and  then  enforce  them."  In  large 
wet  cities  such  as  St.  Louis,  the  frank  admission  was  that  "no  officer  in 
St.  Louis  could  be  elected  unless  he  declares  he  is  opposed  to  the 
Volstead  Act,"  while  "outside  of  four  or  five  counties  Missouri  is  dry, 
and  to  be  elected  to  any  important  State  office  one  must  be  on  the  dry 
ticket."  In  North  Dakota,  dry  sentiment  was  so  strong  that  the  state 
Supreme  Court  judged  that  liquor  crimes  involved  "moral  turpitude"; 
but  a  pamphlet  for  compulsory  Temperance  Day  teaching  could  include 
Will  Rogers's  remark,  "If  you  think  this  country  ain't  dry,  just  watch 
'em  vote;  if  you  think  this  country  ain't  wet,  just  watch  'em  drink.  You 
see,  when  they  vote,  it's  counted,  but  when  they  drink,  it  ain't."  Yet, 
in  the  depths  of  dry  Texas,  conditions  were  so  bad  in  towns  such  as 
Galveston,  with  open  bawdy  and  gambling  houses  and  saloons,  that  a 
prominent  law  officer  had  to  shrug  off  the  town  as  "outside  the  United 

The  Volstead  Act  was  enforced  in  the  United  States  wherever  the 
population  sympathized  with  it.  In  the  rural  areas  of  the  South  and 
West,  there  was  effective  prohibition,  as  there  still  is  in  certain  coun- 
ties. In  the  large  cities,  however,  there  was  little  or  no  attempt  at  en- 
forcement The  police  merely  aimed  at  regulating  the  worst  excesses 
of  the  speak-easies.  In  the  ports  of  America,  as  the  president  of  the  In- 
ternational Seamen's  Union  said,  there  was  no  such  thing  as  enforce- 
ment or  prohibition  for  the  seaman.  "He  can  get  all  the  drink  that  he 
can  possibly  swill  or  buy,  and  it  is  strong  drink."53  Along  the  main 
highways  of  the  land,  roadhouses  offered  hard  liquor  to  passing  travel- 

196   /THE    DRY    TREE 

ers.  In  addition,  no  tourist  resort  would  ever  dry  up  its  means  of 
attracting  patrons.  Wherever  urban  conglomerations  or  modern  commu- 
nications spread,  liquor  spread  too.  The  South  and  West  were  pro- 
tected by  their  isolation  for  a  long  time,  but  even  dry  Kansas  could  not 
keep  its  citizens  from  catching  jake  paralysis  in  the  western  part  of 
Kansas  City.  Enforcement  was  only  effective  where  it  relied  on  politi- 
cal and  religious  sanctions.  Where  political  and  religious  tradition 
sanctioned  liquor,  enforcement  was  a  farce. 

The  quarrel  between  the  drys  and  the  wets  about  the  rights  and 
wrongs  of  the  state  attitude  toward  law  enforcement  was  a  quarrel  in 
Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.  When  Borah  urged  the  states  to  pick  up  their 
share  of  the  burden  under  the  "concurrent"  clause  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment,  he  was  heard  and  ignored.  When  Governor  Ritchie,  of 
Maryland,  insisted  that  the  "concurrent"  clause  merely  reserved  the 
right  of  their  own  police  power  to  the  states  without  imposing  a  duty 
upon  them  to  help  the  federal  government,  the  wet  states  applauded 
him  and  the  dry  ones  cursed  him.54  But  the  argument  made  no  differ- 
ence to  the  facts  of  enforcement  When  the  state  legislatures  would 
appropriate  even  less  than  a  niggardly  Congress  to  enforce  an  unpopu- 
lar law,  any  argument  about  the  rights  and  wrongs  of  state  enforce- 
ment was  a  mere  exercise  in  legal  casuistry. 

The  states  themselves  showed  increasing  opposition  to  the  Volstead 
Act.  After  New  York  had  repealed  its  prohibition  law,  it  was  followed 
in  the  twenties  by  Nevada,  Montana,  and  Wisconsin.  In  1930,  Massa- 
chusetts, Illinois,  and  Rhode  Island  all  voted  by  referendum  to  repeal 
their  state  prohibition  laws.  Although  the  drys  had  won  six  out  of  ten 
popular  ref erendums  before  1928  on  the  question  of  keeping  the  state 
enforcement  codes  in  operation,  they  lost  ground  steadily  after  the 
election  of  Herbert  Hoover  to  the  White  House.55*  Their  margin  of 
victory  in  ref  erendums  had  always  been  narrow,  and  the  growing  un- 
popularity of  prohibition  during  the  depression  turned  their  slight  ma- 
jorities into  minorities.  The  drys  ended  by  opposing  state  referendums 
as  a  means  of  expressing  popular  opinion,  and  tried  to  rally  the  legisla- 
tures alone  behind  the  dry  law.  But  as  state  after  state  gave  up  its  en- 
forcement law,  until  even  California  with  its  dry  stronghold  of  Los 
Angeles  went  wet  in  1932,  the  drys  could  no  longer  hold  back  the  tide 
of  popular  discontent,  f 

*  Out  of  further  referendum^  in  nine  states  before  1928,  however,  asking  for 
modification  or  repeal  of  the  national  prohibition  laws,  the  wets  won  seven  and 
the  drys  only  two. 

t  Los  Angeles,  with  its  immigrant  Midwestern  population,  was  the  only  major 
dry  city  outside  the  South  in  the  United  States. 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /    197 

The  Wickersham  Commission,  in  looking  through  the  record  of  the 
states  on  prohibition,  could  only  commend  Kansas  and  Virginia  as 
truly  zealous  prohibition  states.  Even  in  these  two  areas  of  virtue, 
there  was  a  failure  of  enforcement  in  the  cities.  And  a  failure  of  en- 
forcement in  the  cities  meant  a  "failure  in  the  major  part  of  the  land  in 
population  and  influence/'36  In  fact,  the  commission  recognized  that 
the  failure  of  the  states  to  enforce  the  dry  laws  was  really  a  reasonable 
response  to  the  failure  of  the  people  within  those  states  to  uphold 
those  laws.  The  states  were  united  in  the  prosecution  of  other  laws, 
such  as  the  narcotics  law.  Perhaps,  the  fault  was  more  in  the  Eight- 
eenth Amendment  itself  than  in  the  states  which  held  together  in 
agreement  about  most  of  the  Constitution.  As  Heywood  Broun  com- 
mented on  Herbert  Hoover's  dry  messages  to  Congress,  he  found  it 
difficult  to  see  how  a  man  could  say  in  one  breath  that  he  loved  the 
Constitution  and  also  the  amendment  which  had  brought  it  into  such 
disrepute  and  peril.  "One  might  as  well  maintain  that  he  is  for  both 
the  heroine  and  the  villain  who  threatens  her,  Red  Riding  Hood  and 
the  wolf,  Nancy  Sikes  and  also  Bill/'57 


THERE  WERE  five  main  sources  of  illegal  liquor:  imported  liquor,  di- 
verted industrial  alcohol,  moonshine,  illicit  beer,  and  illicit  wine.*  The 
first  two  sources  supplied  most  of  the  decent  liquor  available  in  the 
early  twenties.  If  this  condition  had  continued  into  the  late  twenties, 
there  might  have  been  some  hope  of  adequate  enforcement  of  the  pro- 
hibition laws.  But  the  production  of  moonshine  and  beer  and  wine  in 
the  home  decentralized  the  making  of  bootleg  liquor  to  such  an  extent 
that  enforcement  became  impossible.  Where  the  springs  of  bootleg 
liquor  rose  in  half  the  homes  of  America,  there  was  no  stopping  of  the 

American  prohibition  was  very  profitable  to  its  geographical  neigh- 
bors. The  migration  of  thirsty  Americans  into  Canada  sensibly  helped 
the  Canadian  economy.  Hotels,  bars,  roads,  and  steamboats  were  built 

*  There  were  two  other  minor  sources  of  beverage  alcohol.  The  first  was  legal: 
the  supplies  of  liquor  provided  through  doctors'  and  druggists'  prescriptions,  and 
through  sacramental  wine.  The  small  extent  of  this  supply  made  it  relatively  unim- 
portant. The  second  source  was  the  mysterious  disappearance  of  spirits  held  in 
government  warehouses  under  bond  during  prohibition.  In  1920,  there  were  50,- 
550,498  gallons  of  whisky  under  bond;  this  amount  had  shrunk  to  18,442,955  gal- 
lons by  1933.  Even  allowing  for  the  legitimate  prescription  of  medical  alcohol,  at 
least  20,000,000  gallons  of  whisky  must  have  been  diverted  somewhere  or  other. 

198   /THE    DRY    TREE 

for  the  new  tourist  trade.  The  financial  attractions  of  the  new  demand 
proved  too  much  for  the  prohibition  laws  of  the  Canadian  provinces, 
and  they  were  mostly  repealed.  The  number  of  Canadians  visiting 
America  was  only  half  the  number  of  Americans  visiting  Canada, 
while,  on  the  average,  each  American  spent  twice  as  much  money  as 
his  Canadian  counterpart.  Indeed,  Canada  profited  very  much  from 
prohibition  in  America.58  The  liquor  monopolies  in  the  Canadian  prov- 
inces reaped  huge  benefits  from  the  sale  of  liquor  and  from  taxes  on 
"export  houses/*  which  smuggled  liquor  into  the  United  States.  After 
seven  years  of  American  prohibition,  Canada  was  exporting  officially 
more  than  one  million  gallons  of  spirits  each  year  to  its  neighbor.  Not 
until  1930  did  the  Canadian  government  make  a  real  effort  to  stop  the 
flow  of  whisky  into  America. 

Roy  Haynes  referred  sadly  to  the  remark  that  it  was  impossible  to 
keep  liquor  from  dripping  through  a  dotted  line.59  The  Canadian- 
American  border  was  some  thousands  of  miles  long,  and  hardly  pa- 
trolled. The  Mexican  border  was  similarly  easy  to  cross,  although  it 
was  never  a  major  source  of  bootleg  supply.  Through  these  unde- 
fended frontiers,  a  deluge  of  liquor  descended.  Between  1918  and 
1922,  imports  of  British  liquor  into  Canada  increased  six  times  and  into 
Mexico  eight  times.  Although  it  is  impossible  to  calculate  how  much 
liquor  was  actually  smuggled  into  America,  the  liquor  revenues  of  the 
Canadian  government  increased  four  times  during  prohibition,  while 
the  consumption  of  spirits  by  the  Canadian  population  almost  halved.60 
In  the  busiest  smuggling  area,  Detroit,  graft  averaging  two  million  dol- 
lars a  week  bought  immunity  for  liquor  traders.  General  Andrews  cal- 
culated that  the  law  enforcement  agencies  caught  only  one-twentieth 
of  the  liquor  smuggled  into  America.61  If  his  estimate  was  accurate, 
the  flow  of  liquor  into  America  can  be  calculated  at  between  five  and 
ten  million  gallons  a  year.  The  Department  of  Commerce  gave  the 
worth  of  smuggled  liquor  at  the  "low  estimate"  of  $40,000,000  a  year.62 

Smuggled  liguor  was  brought  into  the  United  States  by  sea  as  well 
a£"15yland.  Prohibition  saved  the  economy  of  many  poor  islands  off 
Canada  and  in  the  West  Indies.  Imports  of  liquor  into  St.  Pierre  and  ^ 
Miquelon,  the  Bahamas,  and  other  islands  would  have  been  sufficient 
to  keep  the  local  population  dead-drunk  for  hundreds  of  years.68  The  ~; 
liquor  was  exported  again,  however,  to  the  fleets  of  rumrunners  which 
lurked  outside  American  territorial  waters  and  sold  their  cargo  to  the 
owners  of  fast  speedboats  to  run  in  past  the  Coast  Guard  cutters.  One 
contemporary  account  by  a  rumrunner  brings  out  the  monotony  and 
dullness  of  life  on  the  waiting  ships  of  Rum  Row.64  Sensational  ac- 
counts of  Rum  Row  and  Bill  McCoy,  whose  liquor  was  guaranteed  to 


Courtesy  of  the  Evening  World,  by  Clive  Weed 


be  the  "real  McCoy"  and  no  fake  brand,  cast  a  glamorous  light  on  the 
sea-smuggling  business,  which  was  hardly  felt  by  the  smugglers  them- 
selves.65 After  the  first  four  years  of  easy  profits  and  quick  sales,  over- 
competition,  murders  by  hijackers,  the  harrying  of  the  Coast  Guard, 
and  long  months  at  sea  with  too  much  liquor  on  board  reduced  the  ships 
on  Rum  Row  to  a  desolate  line  of  vessels  which  barely  paid  their  way. 
Only  the  islanders  and  owners  of  the  goods  at  the  home  ports  of  the 
rumrunners  made  safe  profits.  Perhaps  the  real  gainer  from  Rum  Row 
was  the  United  States  Navy,  which  was  training  its  future  sailors  in 
gunnery  and  navigation  without  any  government  expense,66 
The  second  spring  of  bootleg  liquor  flowed  from  the  business  of  in- 

200   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

dustrial  alcohol.  Little  industrial  alcohol  was  used  in  America  until  the 
beginning  of  this  century.  By  1906,  however,  the  demand  had  become 
sufficient  to  secure  its  exemption  from  the  excise  tax  on  distilled  liquors, 
once  special  denaturants  had  been  added  to  the  alcohol  to  render  it  unfit 
for  human  consumption.  Between  1920  and  1930,  legitimate  produc- 
tion of  industrial  alcohol  increased  nearly  four  times  to  just  over  180,- 
000,000  proof  gallons  a  year,  although  beverage  alcohol  was  prohibited 
at  this  time.  The  Volstead  Act  carefully  exempted  industrial  alcohol 
from  its  provisions,  and  set  up  complex  rules  for  its  supervision  by  the 
Prohibition  Bureau. 

The  huge  increase  in  the  business  of  industrial  alcohol  was  partly 
due  to  the  boom  in  industry  and  partly  due  to  bootlegging.  In  1926, 
General  Andrews  referred  sourly  to  the  special  denaturing  plants  which 
manufactured  industrial  alcohol  as  "nothing  more  or  less  than  boot- 
legging organizations."67  He  estimated  that  some  15,000,000  gallons  of 
alcohol  a  year  were  diverted  into  bootleg  channels;  the  United  States 
Attorney  for  the  Southern  District  of  New  York  lifted  this  figure  to 
between  50,000,000  and  60,000,000  gallons.68  Since  each  gallon  of  in- 
dustrial alcohol,  when  doctored  and  watered  and  colored  by  bootleg- 
gers, produced  three  gallons  of  so-called  whisky  or  gin,  the  amount  of 
booze  available  from  this  source  was  large.  But  the  heyday  of  the  di- 
version of  industrial  alcohol  passed  in  the  middle  twenties,  and,  through 
better  regulation,  the  total  quantity  of  bootlegged  alcohol  from  this 
loophole  had  sunk  to  less  than  15,000,000  gallons  a  year  by  1930.69 

The  Prohibition  Bureau  tried  to  make  industrial  alcohol  undrinkable 
by  insisting  on  the  addition  of  one  of  seventy-six  denaturants,  made  up 
from  different  formulas.  Some  of  these  denaturants  were  harmless, 
such  as  lavender  and  soft  soap;  others  were  poisonous,  such  as  iodine, 
sulphuric  acid,  and  wood  alcohol.  The  bootleggers,  once  they  had  laid 
their  hands  on  the  denatured  alcohol,  tried  to  recover  it  for  drinking 
purposes.  The  Wickersham  Commission  conceded  that  a  skilled  chem- 
ist, given  adequate  resources,  could  recover  drinking  alcohol  from  al- 
most any  mixture  which  contained  it.70  But  the  trouble  was  that  too 
many  bootleggers  in  search  of  quick  profits  did  not  bother  to  set  up 
and  pay  for  the  expensive  processes  of  recovery.  With  little  more  than 
a  token  effort  at  removing  the  denaturants,  the  bootleggers  mixed  in- 
dustrial alcohol  with  glycerine  and  oil  of  juniper  and  called  the  prod- 
uct gin.  Scotch  whisky  was  made  by  adding  caramel  and  prune  juice 
and  creosote  to  the  industrial  alcohol.  Then  forged  labels  and  bottles, 
resembling  those  of  high-grade  liquor  firms  in  England  or  Canada, 
were  used  to  peddle  the  mixture  into  the  throats  of  the  unsuspecting.71 
The  world  was  suddenly  full  of  people  "putting  new  gin  into  old 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /   201 

The  number  of  deaths  due  to  poisonous  drink  in  the  United  States 
gives  a  fair  picture  of  the  height  of  the  influence  of  doctored  industrial 
alcohol.  The  peak  of  these  deaths  was  during  the  period  1925-1929, 
when  some  forty  people  in  every  million  were  dying  from  bad  liquor 
each  year.  Most  of  the  slaughter  was  caused  in  the  New  York  area  by 
the  sale  of  bootleg  containing  wood  alcohol,  a  denaturing  substance 
which  could  blind  and  kill.  The  wet  press  accused  the  Prohibition  Bu- 
reau of  conspiring  to  poison  American  citizens,  because  the  Bureau 
knew  that  at  least  one  gallon  of  industrial  alcohol  in  ten  would  be 
diverted  into  the  human  stomach.  "A  skull  and  cross-bones  becomes 
the  badge  of  the  enforcement  service,"  screamed  the  New  York  World. 
The  Borgias  had  poisoned  only  individuals,  while  the  government  of 
the  United  States  proposed  "collective  slaughter."  Even  the  Venetian 
prisoners,  according  to  the  World,  "never  could  be  accused  of  prepar- 
ing venomous  doses  for  purposes  of  reform."72  The  publicity  not  only 
caused  consumers  to  be  more  careful  about  what  they  drank,  but  made 
the  Prohibition  Bureau,  despite  the  protests  of  the  drys,  research  into 
the  possibility  of  finding  nontoxic,  but  more  revolting,  denaturants  to 
put  into  industrial  alcohol.  Wayne  Wheeler  might  say  that  those  who 
drank  industrial  alcohol  were  deliberate  suicides.73  But  it  was  a  nasty 
truth  that  the  very  same  reformers  who  had  supported  the  Hepburn 
Pure  Food  and  Drug  Bill  twenty  years  before  now  wanted  to  put  poi- 
sons into  alcohol  which  they  knew  would  be  drunk  by  human  beings.74 

The  third  spring  of  the  bootleg  liquor,  and  its  chief  source  by  the 
close  of  the  twenties,  was  moonshine  —  illegal  spirits  distilled  in  Amer- 
ica for  local  consumption.  Moonshine  had  been  distilled  in  the  Appa- 
lachian Mountains  since  the  eighteenth  century,  and,  even  before  pro- 
hibition, up  to  two  thousand  illicit  stills  a  year  were  seized  by  revenue 
officers.  But  national  prohibition  developed  the  moonshining  industry 
from  small  business  into  big  business.  In  1929,  twelve  times  as  many 
illicit  stills  were  seized  as  had  been  seized  in  1913.  Methods  of  making 
high-quality  liquor  by  speedy  aging  processes  had  made  obsolete  the 
means  of  both  the  legitimate  and  the  illegitimate  distillers  of  the  days 
before  the  Volstead  Act  By  the  early  thirties,  the  huge  circulation  and 
low  price  of  moonshine  of  moderate  quality  was  a  tribute  to  the  scien- 
tific ingenuity  and  legal  immunity  of  its  makers.  In  fact,  moonshining 
has  continued  to  this  day  to  be  a  profitable  industry,  with  an  output  of 
up  to  100,000,000  gallons  of  liquor  a  year. 

In  the  early  days  of  prohibition,  too  many  small  operators  with  too 
little  knowledge  went  into  the  business  of  operating  stills.  Poisonous 
salts  of  copper  and  lead  and  zinc  found  their  way  into  the  moonshine 
from  defective  worms  and  coils  used  in  the  process  of  distillation.  The 
greed  of  amateur  moonshiners  made  them  include  the  "heads"  of  the 

Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


distillation,  high  in  aldehydes,  and  the  "tails,"  shot  through  with  fusel 
oil,  in  the  final  mixture.  These  should  have  been  thrown  away,  and 
only  the  "middle  run"  taken.  Moreover,  the  addition  of  dead  rats  and 
pieces  of  rotten  meat  to  the  mixture  to  give  it  a  kick  did  not  make  the 
drink  better  for  the  health  of  the  drinkers.  The  composition  of  the  origi- 
nal mash,  from  which  moonshine  was  distilled,  was  described  by  a 
Massachusetts  prohibition  administrator  as  a  blend  of  sugar,  water, 
yeast,  and  garbage.  His  dictum  was:  "The  more  juicy  the  garbage,  the 
better  the  mash,  and  the  better  the  'shine/  "75  Only  when  the  produc- 
tion of  moonshine  became  based  on  the  growing  corn-sugar  industry 
did  its  basic  elements  become  clean  enough  to  avoid  too  much  con- 
tamination of  the  drinker's  stomach.  The  corn-sugar  industry  expanded 
from  a  production  of  152,000,000  pounds  in  1921  to  960,000,000  pounds 
in  1929,  making  the  Prohibition  Bureau  calculate  sadly  that  there  were 
at  least  seven  or  eight  gallons  of  high-proof  moonshine  alcohol  in  cir- 
culation for  every  gallon  of  diverted  industrial  alcohol.76  This  estimate 
put  the  production  of  moonshine  made  from  corn  sugar  alone  at  a 
minimum  of  70,000,000  gallons  a  year,  with  an  absolute  alcohol  con- 
tent of  some  23,000,000  gallons.77 

The  small  moonshiners  were  gradually  taken  over  or  pushed  out  by 
the  large  criminal  distributors  of  moonshine.  These  distributors  either 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /  203 

ran  large  distilleries  of  their  own  (more  than  three  thousand  distilleries 
costing  up  to  $50,000  each  were  captured  in  1929)  or  else  farmed  out 
their  corn  sugar  to  hordes  of  home  "alky  cookers"  in  the  tenements  of 
the  large  cities.  Corn  sugar  and  yeast  would  be  supplied  to  the  alky 
cooker  in  Chicago  at  a  cost  of  fifty  cents  a  gallon.  He  would  sell  his 
distilled  moonshine  to  the  distributor  at  two  dollars  a  gallon.  The  dis- 
tributor would  bottle  it,  and  retail  it  to  the  speak-easy  owner  at  six  dol- 
lars a  gallon.*  The  speak-easy  owner  would  then  charge  twenty-five 
cents  for  each  drink,  making  some  forty  dollars  on  the  original  gal- 
lon.78 Local  brands  of  moonshine  had  names  that  testified  to  their  kick 
—  Panther  and  Goat  Whisky,  Jackass  Brandy,  White  Mule,  White  and 
Jersey  Lightning,  Yack  Yack  Bourbon,  Soda  Pop  Moon,  Straightsville 
Stuff.  The  extent  of  the  moonshine  industry  was  so  great  that  the 
Wickersham  Commission  had  to  confess: 

.  .  .  the  improved  methods,  the  perfection  of  organization,  the  ease 
of  production,  the  cheapness  and  easy  accessibility  of  materials,  the 
abundance  of  localities  where  such  plants  can  be  operated  with  a 
minimum  risk  of  discovery,  the  ease  with  which  they  may  be  con- 
cealed, and  the  huge  profits  involved,  have  enabled  this  business  to 
become  established  to  an  extent  which  makes  it  very  difficult  to  put  to 
an  end.79 

Ten  years  of  prohibition  were  calculated  to  have  increased  the  con- 
sumption of  spirits  from  all  sources  in  America  by  one-tenth,  when 
compared  to  the  legal  drinking  days  before  the  Great  War.80 

Not  all  drinkers  of  moonshine  bought  the  final  product  directly  from 
the  bootleggers.  A  sophisticated  and  economical  group  of  Americans 
preferred  to  "mix  their  own  poison."  They  bought  raw  alcohol  directly 
from  the  alky  cookers  or  bootleggers  or  druggists.  They  then  mixed 
the  alcohol  in  their  own  bathtubs  with  quantities  of  glycerine  and  oil  of 
jumper,  according  to  individual  taste.  It  was  this  mixture,  which  was 
known  as  "bathtub  gin,"  that  did  much  to  ruin  the  digestion  of  the 
American  middle  classes.  The  mixture  was  served  with  quantities  of 
ginger  ale  to  hide  the  flavor,  although  nothing  could  disguise  the 
crawling  horrors  of  the  aftereffects. 

The  moment  that  the  Prohibition  Bureau  admitted  that  a  major 
source  of  supply  was  homemade  moonshine  in  some  form  or  another,  it 

*  Dr.  Bundesen,  Public  Health  Commissioner  of  Chicago,  gave  an  exciting  de- 
scription of  the  alky  cooker  and  his  customer.  For  them,  speed  was  everything. 
"Their  apparatus  is  makeshift.  Their  surroundings  are  filthy.  Their  processes  are 
hurried.  Their  materials  are  the  cheapest.  They  themselves  are  usually  novices. 
They  constantly  face  the  danger  of  detection  and  that  fact  alone  would  render 
them  desperate  if  they  were  not  by  nature  desperate  men." 


was  an  admission  that  prohibition  could  never  be  enforced.  Thus  the 
spokesmen  of  the  drys  blinded  their  eyes  to  the  truth  for  a  decade.  In 
1923,  Roy  Haynes  wrote,  "Home-brew,  the  last  source  of  supply,  is  out 
of  fashion.  .  .  .  Synthetic  gin  is  following  the  same  course."81  By  1929, 
Mabel  Walker  Willebrandt  was  repeating,  'The  still  problem  is  a  com- 
paratively unimportant  phase  of  lawlessness  at  the  present  time."82 
This  was  not  the  truth.  For  the  truth  was  that,  if  the  truth  were  ad- 
mitted, the  Prohibition  Bureau  could  do  nothing  about  it.  Moonshine 
was  the  source  with  which  the  Prohibition  Bureau  was  least  equipped 
to  deal.88  Indeed,  the  Bureau  did  not  attempt  to  deal  with  it.  When  a 
hundred  pounds  of  corn  sugar  cost  five  dollars  and  a  portable  one- 
gallon  still  cost  seven  dollars,  when  the  libraries  of  America  kept  a  spe- 
cial shelf  of  dog-eared  books  on  how  to  make  liquor  in  the  home,  when 
the  government  itself  issued  Farmers9  Bulletins  on  the  methods  of  mak- 
ing alcohol,  when  Senator  Reed  could  circulate  in  print  his  own  rec- 
ipes for  making  pumpkin  gin  and  applejack,  when  constitutional 
amendments  prevented  the  search  of  private  homes,  the  attempt  to 
stop  people  from  making  their  own  liquor  and  selling  it  on  a  small 
scale  was  impossible.  The  only  just  comment  was  a  verse  by  John 
Judge,-  Jr.,  in  his  Noble  Experiments: 

THE    TOOTHLESS     LAW   /  205 

There's  gold  in  them  there  mountains, 
There's  gold  in  them  there  hills; 
The  natives  there  are  getting  it 
By  operating  stills.** 

The  fourth  major  spring  of  booze  was  beer.  The  manufacture  of 
legal  near-beer  involved  the  manufacture  of  real  beer,  which  was  then 
deprived  of  most  of  its  alcoholic  content.  Many  breweries  were  bought 
up  by  gangsters  and  run  openly  in  defiance  of  the  law.  Other  brewer- 
ies fulfilled  the  letter  of  the  law  in  making  near-beer,  and  then  sent 
supplies  of  the  alcohol  removed  in  the  manufacturing  process  along 
with  the  product,  so  that  the  seller  could  "spike"  the  liquid  back  to  its 
previous  condition.  Nearly  one  billion  gallons  of  near-beer  were  manu- 
factured during  the  first  five  years  of  prohibition,  although  the  produc- 
tion of  near-beer  by  1925  was  less  than  one-tenth  of  the  production  of 
beer  in  1914.  The  problem  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  was  to  see  that 
this  output  of  near-beer  was  free  from  alcohol  and  was  the  only  ap- 
proximation to  beer  on  the  market.  It  failed  in  both  tasks.  By  1921,  the 
first  hopeful  advertisements  of  near-beers,  such  as  Kreuger's  Special  — 
"brewed  and  aged  and  fermented  in  the  famous  Kreuger  way,  to  give 
it  all  the  old-time  tang,  snap  and  incomparable  flavor"  — and  Fei- 
genspan's  Private  Seal  —  "mellow  and  tasty  as  ever"  —  had  given  way 
to  a  protest  by  Anheuser-Busch,  called  The  Penalty  of  Law  Obedience. 
The  big  brewing  company  pointed  out  that  prohibition  had  made 
valueless  a  plant  worth  $40,000,000;  the  company  had  spent  another 
$18,000,000  in  converting  the  plant  to  make  a  near-beer  called  Bevo; 
and  now  they  could  not  sell  their  near-beer  because  of  the  huge  and 
unchecked  competition  of  bootleggers  selling  real  beer.  The  pamphlet 
complained,  "Those  who  are  obeying  the  law  are  being  ground  to 
pieces  by  its  very  operation,  while  those  who  are  violating  the  law  are 
reaping  unheard-of  rewards.  Every  rule  of  justice  has  been  reversed. 
Every  tradition  and  principle  of  our  Government  has  been  over- 
turned/'85 But  the  protest  was  of  no  use.  In  the  main,  the  production  of 
legal  near-beer  from  the  old  breweries  reached  a  maximum  of  one- 
third  of  its  former  volume,  and  a  minimum  of  one-fiftieth.  Only  two 
major  breweries  managed  to  equal  or  increase  their  production  of  near- 
beer  over  their  past  output  of  beer.86 

As  the  increased  production  of  corn  sugar  was  evidence  of  the 
amount  of  moonshining  in  America,  so  the  increased  production  of 
wort  and  malt  syrup  showed  up  the  popular  practice  of  illicit  brewing. 
Wort  is  cooled,  boiled  mash  from  which  beer  is  made.  With  the  mere 
addition  of  yeast,  beer  can  be  manufactured  from  wort.  The  process 
of  making  beer  from  malt  syrup  is  a  little  more  complicated,  and  in- 

206   /THE    DRY    TREE 

volves  boiling.  Nevertheless,  the  legal  production  of  both  of  these  non- 
alcoholic substances,  whose  chief  use  was  in  the  manufacture  of  beer, 
sprang  up  to  unrivaled  heights  during  prohibition,  increasing  over  six 
times  during  the  space  of  seven  years.87  The  production  of  hops  in  the 
United  States  also  continued  to  flourish;  15,000,000  pounds  of  hops 
were  sold  in  1928,  enough  to  produce  some  20,000,000  barrels  of  beer, 
according  to  the  estimate  of  the  Association  Against  the  Prohibition 
Amendment.88  The  suggested  figures  for  the  manufacture  of  home- 
brew in  1929,  given  by  the  Prohibition  Bureau,  are  just  under  700,000,- 
000  gallons  of  beer,  or  about  a  third  of  the  quantity  consumed  in 
1914.89  These  estimates  are  confirmed  by  other  reliable  figures.90 

The  final  major  spring  of  bootleg  was  the  making  of  wine  and  cider 
in  the  home.  In  1920,  many  owners  of  vineyards  in  California  had 
pulled  up  their  vines,  expecting  financial  ruin;  one  of  them  had  even 
committed  suicide.  But  the  first  six  years  of  national  prohibition  brought 
unparalleled  prosperity  to  the  California  grape  growers.  Shipments  of 
grapes,  wine  and  table  and  raisin,  to  all  parts  of  America  more  than 
doubled.  The  salvation  of  the  California  grape  industry  was  in  the 
notorious  Section  29  of  the  Volstead  Act,  which  permitted  the  making 
in  the  home  of  fermented  fruit  juices.  The  section  was  inserted,  origi- 
nally, to  save  the  vinegar  industry  and  the  hard  cider  of  the  American 
fanners;  it  was  now  used  to  save  the  wine  of  the  immigrants.  The  Cali- 
fornia grape  growers,  who  had  often  supported  the  drys  against  the 
local  brewers  and  distillers  and  saloons  in  a  vain  effort  to  enlist  dry 
support  for  their  native  industry,  now  found  themselves  saved  by  the 
dry  law.  They  even  produced  a  processed  "grape  jelly"  called  Vine-Glo 
for  those  who  were  too  lazy  to  make  their  own  wine.  When  water  was 
added  to  Vine-Glo,  it  would  make  a  potent  wine  within  sixty  days.  It 
was  remarkable  that  both  Mabel  Walker  Willebrandt,  after  she  had 
given  up  her  job  as  -Assistant  Attorney  General,  and  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  state  superintendent  supported  this  product,  until  the  United 
States  government  threatened  to  prosecute  its  makers.  Mrs.  Wille- 
brandt even  persuaded  the  government  to  advance  $20,000,000  to  the 
grape  growers  who  had  ruined  themselves  by  planting  too  many 
grapes  for  the  prohibition  market  And  the  legal  production  of  Vine 
tonics"  of  high  alcoholic  content  and  low  medical  value  continued  un- 
til repeal.91  As  a  wet  colonel  remarked,  "Andrew  Volstead  should  be 
regarded  as  one  of  the  patron  saints  of  the  San  Joaquin  Valley."92 

Most  of  the  California  wine-grapes  went  to  the  immigrant  popula- 
tions in  New  York  City,  Chicago,  Boston,  Philadelphia,  and  Pittsburgh. 
The  Bureau  of  Prohibition  calculated  that,  by  1930,  more  than  a  hun- 
dred million  gallons  of  wine  were  being  made  in  private  homes  each 
year.93  The  consumption  of  wine  in  America  probably  rose  by  two- 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW/  207 

thirds  in  the  ten  years  of  prohibition.94  No  figure  was  ever  given  for 
the  production  of  hard  cider  on  the  farms,  since  rural  virtue  was  not 
capable  of  being  assessed  by  statistics,  nor  even  by  guesses.  But  the 
home  production  of  wine  and  cider  reached  a  huge  volume  and  was  the 
one  branch  of  the  bootleg  trade  which  remained  in  the  hands  of  small 
businessmen.  Roy  Haynes  might  characterize  the  big  or  little  boot- 
legger as  "a  man  constantly  haunted  with  fear  of  apprehension  and 
with  a  veritable  Damoclean  sword  hanging  by  a  thread  over  his  head**; 
but,  in  fact,  small  makers  of  wine  were  rarely  prosecuted.95  The  pro- 
duction of  wine  for  friends  and  neighbors  and  occasional  buyers  was 
considered  a  respectable  way  of  adding  to  the  family  income. 

A  typical  case  of  the  small  bootlegger  was  Jennie  Justo,  the  "queen 
of  bootleggers"  in  Madison,  Wisconsin.96  She  paid  her  way  through  the 
university  there  by  bootlegging  wine  from  the  local  Italian  quarter. 
She  drifted  into  the  profession  casually,  after  two  journalists  had  asked 
her  if  she  could  sell  them  a  gallon  of  wine  each  week  end  from  her 
uncle's  drugstore.  In  the  end,  she  set  up  a  speak-easy  herself  for  the 
university  students;  she  now  claims  that  it  was  as  safe  and  easy  to  run 
as  her  present  tavern  in  Madison.  She  did  spend  six  months  in  the  Mil- 
waukee House  of  Correction  for  bootlegging,  but  it  was  a  "nice  rest 
anyways/*  To  her,  the  whole  episode  was  a  respectable  way  of  making 
a  living  and  of  fulfilling  a  community  need.  The  only  villains  in  the 
piece  were  the  federal  officials,  who  trapped  her  by  claiming  to  be 
friends  of  her  brother.97 

There  were  many  such  cases  among  the  small  peddlers  of  bootleg 
and  small  makers  of  wine.  And  there  were  few  means  of  proceeding 
against  them.  "We  never  would  get  anywhere  by  arresting  distribu- 
tors/' General  Andrews  conceded,  "because  the  brother  or  uncle  of  the 
man  that  is  arrested  takes  it  up  and  goes  right  on/'98  Although  the 
spectacle  of  immigrants  making  and  selling  and  drinking  their  wine 
drove  the  drys  to  paroxysms  of  fury,  so  that  they  recommended  the 
deportation  of  alien  violators  of  the  Volstead  Act,  nothing  much  could 
be  done  to  stop  the  practice.99  Too  many  people  were  making  too 
much  liquor  at  home  in  a  society  which  resented  police  invasion  of 
privacy.  The  Wickersham  Commission  conceded  as  much: 

Necessity  seems  to  compel  the  virtual  abandonment  of  efforts  for 
effective  enforcement  at  this  point,  but  it  must  be  recognized  that  this 
is  done  at  the  price  of  nullification  to  that  extent.  Law  here  bows  to 
actualities,  and  the  purpose  of  the  law  needs  must  be  accomplished  by 
less  direct  means.  An  enlightened  and  vigorous,  but  now  long  neg- 
lected, campaign  of  education  must  constitute  those  means.100 

But  it  was  too  late  to  start  the  campaign  of  education.  In  the  opinion 
of  Senator  Reed,  brewing  and  wine  making  had  returned  to  their  place 

208   /THE    DRY    TREE 

in  the  home  as  domestic  arts.  "The  rathskeller  is  merged  with  the 
family  coal-celler.  The  secrets  of  the  hofbrau  have  been  handed  over 
to  the  hausfrau."101  Once  a  wide  knowledge  of  how  to  make  passable 
hard  liquor  and  beer  and  wine  was  widely  disseminated  across  America, 
and  once  a  depression  had  made  all  sources  of  income  desirable,  noth- 
ing could  stop  the  flood  of  homemade  alcohol  from  swamping  the 

Even  the  virtuous  countryside  pushed  itself  onto  the  side  of  the 
bootleggers,  since  its  income  from  agricultural  products  had  halved  in 
the  decade.  A  man  who  paddled  a  canoe  from  the  headwaters  of  the 
Mississippi  River  to  its  mouth  wrote  that  the  scent  of  mash  had  as- 
sailed his  nostrils  from  Lake  Itaska  to  the  dock  at  New  Orleans.102  The 
making  of  alcohol  flourished  everywhere  because  it  was  easy  to  make. 
As  the  executive  secretary  of  the  Boston  Trade  Union  Club  testified, 
the  process  was  simple: 

You  can  take  ordinary  prunes,  raisins,  or  grapes.  You  do  not  have  to 
have  hops  or  malt.  You  can  take  ordinary  chicken  corn,  ordinary 
wheat,  ordinary  barley,  and  simplify  that  with  a  certain  process  of 
cooking  and  fermentation,  and  within  24  hours  you  can  have  a  fair 
concoction  that  will  give  you  a  kick.  That  is  all  there  is  in  alcohol, 
is  a  kick.103 

The  making  and  consumption  of  alcohol  in  all  its  various  forms  led 
to  some  tragedies.  Admissions  to  hospitals  showed  that  alcoholics  drank 
corn  whisky  mixed  with  Veronal  or  aspirin,  bad  home-brew,  various 
sorts  of  industrial  alcohol  including  radiator  and  rubbing  alcohol,  bay 
rum,  hair  tonics,  varnish  mixtures,  and  canned  heat  or  smoke.104  Some 
of  these  mixtures  had  been  drunk  by  poor  men  before  prohibition,  but 
more  were  drunk  afterwards,  because  the  price  of  good  liquor  was  be- 
yond the  means  of  low-paid  workers.  In  1928,  a  doctor  claimed  that 
the  net  dividend  of  national  prohibition  was  a  casuality  list  in  that 
year  which  would  "outstrip  the  toll  of  the  War/'105  This  statement  was 
an  exaggeration;  but  it  was  true  that  the  rates  of  death  from  alcohol- 
ism approached  the  rates  of  the  days  before  the  First  World  War,  and 
that  some  of  the  deaths,  caused  by  wood  alcohol  or  Jamaica  ginger, 
took  horrible  forms. 

A  plague  of  wood  alcohol  killed  off  twenty-five  men  in  three  days  in 
October,  1928,  in  New  York  City.  Even  more  horrible  was  the  plague 
of  jakitis,  jakefoot,  jake  paralysis,  or  ginger-foot  that  swept  the  South- 
western states  in  1930.  This  disease  was  caught  by  drinking  Jamaica 
ginger  with  its  high  alcoholic  content.  Its  victims  were  easily  recog- 
nizable. "They  lumber  along  clumsily,  because  crutches  are  new  to 
them;  they  bend  far  forwards  on  their  crutches  as  they  walk,  because 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW  /  209 

they  do  not  dare  to  trust  their  weight  on  paralyzed  toes  and  insteps/'106 
The  Prohibition  Bureau  estimated  that  there  were  8000  cases  of  jakitis 
in  Mississippi,  1000  each  in  Kentucky  and  Louisiana,  800  in  Ten- 
nessee, 400  in  Georgia,  and  several  hundred  more  in  Kansas,  Massa- 
chusetts, Rhode  Island,  and  Connecticut.  In  all,  Dr.  Doran  estimated 
there  were  15,000  cases  of  jake  paralysis  in  the  country,  particularly  in 
the  slum  areas  of  dry  states,  such  as  Kansas,  and  in  the  South,  where 
efficient  law  enforcement  made  rotten  liquor  the  only  available  source 
of  alcohol  for  poor  people. 

The  springs  of  bootleg  could  not  be  dried  up  while  alcohol  was  so 
easy  and  so  profitable  to  make.  The  New  York  World  expressed  this 
point  of  view  in  a  charming  parody  of  a  popular  song,  which  summed 
up  the  situation  of  millions  of  seekers  after  solace  and  income  in  the 

Mother  makes  brandy  from  cherries; 

Pop  distills  whisky  and  gin; 
Sister  sells  wine  from  the  grapes  on  our  vine  — 

Good  grief,  how  the  money  rolls  in/107 


BETWEEN  THE  arrest  of  the  suspected  bootlegger  and  his  conviction, 
there  were  many  ways  of  escap£;  The  first  loophole  was  the  United 
States  Commissioner.  He  issued  search  warrants  and  dismissed  evi- 
dence obtained  through  improper  search  and  seizure.  Arrested  boot- 
leggers were  brought  before  him  for  a  preliminary  hearing,  and  it  was 
up  to  him  to  decide  whether  the  case  warranted  a  grand  jury  trial  or 
not.  He  could  put  off  trial  of  a  particular  case  for  month  after  month, 
while  the  bootlegger  continued  with  his  operations.  He  could  refuse 
to  believe  the  testimony  of  the  prohibition  agents,  and  dismiss  the 
case.  One  United  States  Attorney  in  New  York  testified  that  the  Com- 
missioner there  dismissed  nine  liquor  cases  out  of  ten,  or  fifty  thousand 
cases  a  year,  to  keep  the  courts  moderately  free.108  Many  commis- 
sioners were  appointees  of  state  political  machines  and  treated  their 
cases  in  the  interests  of  their  local  machine.  In  the  most  flagrant  in- 
stances, the  commissioners  would  warn  a  small  clique  of  attorneys 
when  search  warrants  were  issued;  these  attorneys  would,  in  turn, 
warn  the  bootleggers,  so  that  the  prohibition  agents  would  find  on 
their  raids  "only  soft  drinks  and  church  music."109  Mrs.  Willebrandt 
wrote  that  a  great  part  of  her  time  as  Assistant  Attorney  General  was 
spent  in  prosecuting  prosecutors,  rather  than  the  men  they  should  have 

The  second  weak  link  in  the  chain  of  prosecution  was  the  United 

210   /THE    DRY    TREE 

States  District  Attorney.  His  role  was  all-important  in  securing  a  con- 
viction. As  the  Wickersham  Commission  was  told,  "The  opportunities 
of  a  district  attorney  to  affect  the  outcome  of  criminal  cases  is  so  great 
that  the  assumption  of  that  responsibility  without  sympathy  with  the 
law  to  be  enforced  becomes  a  dangerous  and  doubtful  public  service/' 
Even  where  the  district  attorneys  were  on  the  side  of  the  dry  law,  the 
flood  of  prohibition  cases  in  the  federal  courts  forced  them  to  allow 
many  bad  practices  just  to  clear  away  the  congestion.  Often  the  of- 
fenders were  persuaded  to  plead  guilty  and  forego  a  jury  trial  in  re- 
turn for  the  promise  of  a  small  fine  or  sentence  from  the  judge.  Some- 
times cases  were  dismissed  outright  for  this  purpose,  or  because  of  po- 
litical pressure.  During  the  preparation  of  cases,  corrupt  attorneys 
might  make  slips,  which  would  result  in  the  quashing  of  the  case  by 
the  judge.  Moreover,  they  could  usually  find  legal  grounds  for  securing 
the  continuance  of  a  case.  The  Wickersham  Report,  although  discover- 
ing "a  substantial  number  of  thoroughly  competent  and  wholly  sincere 
United  States  district  attorneys/'  deplored  the  fact  that  some  of  them 
showed  "a  marked  want  of  a  sincere  spirit  of  public  service."  It  re- 
gretted that  the  office  was  appointive  and  thus  in  the  hands  of  politi- 
cians. It  was  also  sad  that  the  office  carried  a  low  salary.  Both  of  these 
facts  made  the  integrity  of  district  attorneys  open  to  temptation.  For 
these  reasons,  the  commission  concluded,  'The  typical  United  States 
district  attorney,  the  focal  point  and  keystone  of  the  entire  Federal 
criminal  law-enforcement  structure,  too  often  falls  short  of  the  de- 
mands and  opportunities  of  his  office/'111 

The  third  weak  link  was  the  jury.  Complaints  of  the  wet  sympathies 
of  juries  in  liquor  cases  were  legion.  Where  a  prohibition  case  was  of 
such  importance  that  it  did  reach  trial  by  jury,  the  jury  often  returned 
a  verdict  of  "not  guilty,"  despite  overwhelming  proofs  of  guilt.  J.  J. 
Britt,  on  the  legal  staff  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau,  said  that  it  was  very 
difficult  in  New  York  or  Pennsylvania  "to  get  a  verdict  of  any  great 
consequence  in  either  civil  or  criminal  cases  relating  to  prohibition 
matters."112  In  one  trial  in  Virginia,  a  member  of  the  jury  dropped  a 
half  pint  of  liquor  in  court;  no  action  was  taken,  and  the  jury  as  a 
whole  found  the  defendant,  a  bootlegging  Negress,  guilty.113  On  an- 
other occasion,  a  jury  in  San  Francisco  was  itself  put  on  trial  for  drink- 
ing up  the  evidence  in  a  liquor  case.114  Indeed,  the  notorious  difficulty 
of  getting  dry  verdicts  from  urban  juries  gave  wet  defendants  a  strong 
bargaining  position  with  the  district  attorney;  their  pleas  of  "guilty"  in 
return  for  the  promise  of  a  small  fine  were  as  much  a  favor  to  him  as 
to  them.  The  jury  trial,  instituted  to  protect  justice,  ended  by  becom- 
ing a  method  of  bypassing  justice. 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW/  211 

The  fourth  door  of  escape  was  the  judge  himself.  There  were  certain 
famed  judges  in  America  whose  sentences  on  bootleggers  were  so  light 
that  they  approached  invisibility.  The  leniency  of  some  judges  to  vio- 
lators of  the  dry  law  provoked  a  famous  outburst  from  Clarence  True 
Wilson.  According  to  him,  the  worst  anarchists  in  America  were  not 
bootleggers  —  they  were  judges.  He  even  claimed  that  he  could  call  a 
roll  of  judges,  "whose  names  would  look  like  a  criminals'  list/'115  Al- 
though he  exaggerated,  it  is  true  that  the  American  bench  beneath  the 
Supreme  Court  showed  a  surprising  leniency  to  offenders  against  the 
Volstead  Act,  until  the  Hoover  regime.  Hoover  retired  eighteen  district 
attorneys  and  two  federal  judges,  and  made  good  appointments.  Only 
then  was  a  determined  and  hopeless  attempt  made  to  enforce  the  dry 


The  condition  of  the  American  judiciary  in  the  twenties  was  such 
that  there  was  no  hope  of  enforcing  the  Volstead  Act.  "We  do  not  be- 
gin to  arrest  all  that  are  guilty,  Mr.  Senator,"  General  Andrews  said  to 
Reed,  of  Missouri,  in  1926;  "we  can  not."116  The  fault  was  in  the  courts 
and  the  prisons  as  much  as  in  the  police.  Since  the  beginning  of  the 
century,  the  number  of  cases  tried  in  federal  courts  had  been  rapidly 
increasing.  With  the  passage  of  the  Mann  and  the  National  Motor 
Vehicle  Theft  and  the  Narcotics  Acts,  bringing  increased  legal  respon- 
sibilities to  the  federal  authorities,  the  number  of  cases  terminated  in 
the  federal  courts  increased  from  15,371  in  1910  to  34,230  in  1920,  of 
which  5095  were  prohibition  cases.117  But  then  the  prohibition  cases 
increased  phenomenally,  and  with  them  increased  the  load  on  the  al- 
ready burdened  courts.  By  1928,  there  were  58,429  prohibition  cases 
concluded  in  the  federal  courts;  two  cases  out  of  every  three  were 
terminated  there.  By  1932,  the  number  of  prohibition  cases  had  risen 
to  a  maximum  of  70,252.118  The  machinery  of  justice  was  inadequate 
to  cope  with  this  volume  of  business,  especially  as  insufficient  new 
judgeships  were  created  to  share  the  load.119 

Faced  with  an  impossible  situation,  the  federal  courts  fell  back  on 
the  expedient  of  "bargain  days."  On  these  days,  a  vast  proportion  of 
the  backlog  of  prohibition  cases  was  cleared  off  the  records  by  quick 
pleas  of  "guilt/  from  the  defendants,  in  return  for  low  fines  or  short 
jail  sentences.  Nine  out  of  ten  convictions  under  the  Volstead  Act 
were  obtained  in  bargain  days/'  Until  1930,  not  more  than  one  out  of 
three  convictions  in  federal  courts  resulted  in  any  form  of  jail  sentence 
and  the  average  fine  was  low,  between  $100  and  $150.12°  This  method 

of  dispensing  justice  destroyed  the  high  reputation  which  the  federal 

courts  had  enjoyed  before  prohibition.  As  the  Wickersham  Commission 


212   /THE    DRY    TREE 

Formerly  these  tribunals  were  of  exceptional  dignity,  and  the 
efficiency  and  dispatch  of  their  criminal  business  commanded  whole- 
some fear  and  respect.  The  professional  criminal,  who  sometimes  had 
scanty  respect  for  the  state  tribunals,  was  careful  so  to  conduct  him- 
self as  not  to  come  within  the  jurisdiction  of  the  federal  courts.  The 
effect  of  the  huge  volume  of  liquor  prosecutions,  which  has  come  to 
these  courts  under  prohibition,  has  injured  their  dignity,  impaired 
their  efficiency,  and  endangered  the  wholesome  respect  for  them 
which  once  obtained.  Instead  of  being  impressive  tribunals  of  superior 
jurisdiction,  they  have  had  to  do  the  work  of  police  courts  and  that 
work  has  been  chiefly  in  the  public  eye. 

The  commission  continued  its  indictment  of  the  bad  effects  of  pro- 
hibition on  the  federal  courts.  Prosecutors,  state  and  federal,  had  been 
appointed  and  judged  for  their  conduct  in  prohibition  cases  alone. 
Judges,  too,  had  been  considered  in  this  light  The  civil  business  of  the 
courts  had  been  delayed,  while  even  "bargain  days"  could  not  clear  up 
the  backlog  of  all  the  prosecutions  under  the  dry  law.  Sometimes, 
cases  lingered  on  beyond  the  three  years  allowed  for  their  prosecution 
under  the  statute  of  limitations.  Moreover,  the  Jones  Act  of  1929  had 
allowed  "gross  inequalities  of  sentence/'  The  very  cases  prosecuted  in 
the  courts  included  far  too  many  small  violators  of  the  dry  law,  and 
far  too  few  large  ones.121  Although  the  Wickersham  Commission  dis- 
agreed on  much,  it  did  agree  on  one  thing,  that  the  effects  of  prohibi- 
tion on  the  actual  workings  of  the  law  were  deplorable. 

But  if  the  Volstead  Act  placed  a  severe  strain  on  the  courts  of  Amer- 
ica, it  nearly  burst  the  federal  prisons.  In  1916,  there  were  five  federal 
prisons  and  penitentiaries;  there  were  still  five  in  1929,  although  Presi- 
dent Hoover  began  to  build  more  jails  to  accommodate  the  convicted. 
In  1920,  those  prisoners  who  were  serving  long-term  sentences  in  fed- 
eral prisons  numbered  just  over  five  thousand;  by  1930,  they  numbered 
more  than  twelve  thousand,  of  whom  more  than  four  thousand  had 
been  sentenced  for  violating  the  liquor  laws.122  The  five  prisons  and 
penitentiaries  were  desperately  overcrowded,  since  they  had  been 
built  to  accommodate  a  maximum  of  seven  thousand  prisoners.  Indeed, 
the  federal  authorities  were  forced  to  board  out  most  of  their  prisoners 
in  state  and  county  jails,  for  they  could  not  accommodate  them  in  their 

In  his  Inaugural  address,  President  Herbert  Hoover  promised  the 
reform,  the  reorganization,  and  the  strengthening  of  the  whole  judicial 
and  enforcement  system  in  the  United  States.  For,  in  his  opinion, 
"rigid  and  expeditious  justice  is  the  first  safeguard  of  freedom,  the 
basis  of  all  ordered  liberty,  the  vital  force  of  progress."128  And  Hoover 
did  what  he  said  he  would  do.  He  reformed  judicial  procedure,  the 

From  New  York  Evening  World 


bankruptcy  laws,  the  Federal  Bureau  of  Investigation,  and  the  kidnap- 
ing laws,  and  started  to  build  Alcatraz  and  five  other  prisons.  He  re- 
organized, consolidated,  and  increased  the  efficiency  of  the  Prohibition 
Bureau.  He  appointed  the  Wickersham  Commission,  which,  despite  its 
sloth  and  evasiveness,  produced  a  mass  of  absorbing  information  about 
law  enforcement  in  America  and  dealt  the  deathblow  to  prohibition.  In 
fact,  in  the  legal  sense,  Hoover  was  probably  one  of  the  best  Presi- 

214   /THE    DRY    TREE 

dents  ever  to  sit  in  the  White  House.  It  was  j  unfortunate  that  the 
mouths  and  the  pockets  of  the  American  people  were  becoming  empty 
while  Hoover  was  filling  their  jails. 

The  drys  insisted  on  a  prohibition  law  which  could  not  be  enforced 
by  their  policemen  and  prosecutors  and  judges.  The  failure  of  this  en- 
forcement was,  to  the  wets,  a  proof  of  die  failure  of  the  law.  In  fact, 
such  a  revolutionary  theory  as  national  prohibition  could  never  have 
been  enforced  without  a  revolution  in  criminal  procedure.  Yet  this 
second  revolution  was  not  supported  by  the  drys,  for  they  saw  them- 
selves as  the  defenders  of  the  ancient  customs  and  liberties  of  America. 
Their  revolution  was  to  restore  the  myth  of  the  good  old  days,  with  its 
emphasis  on  the  American  virtues  of  law  and  order. 

But  a  law  can  only  be  enforced  in  a  democracy  when  the  majority 
of  the  people  support  that  law.  And  the  majority  of  the  people  did  not 
support  the  Volstead  Act.  When  an  attempt  at  enforcement  was  made 
by  Hoover,  it  was  already  too  late.  No  general  legal  reform  could  sat- 
isfy a  people  angered  by  a  particular  law.  James  J.  Forrester,  who  in- 
vestigated the  coal-mining  regions  of  Pennsylvania  for  the  Wickersham 
Commission,  found  everywhere  a  "strong  and  bitter  resentment" 
against  national  prohibition  among  workingmen  and  their  leaders. 

Very  few  of  them  believe  in,  or  have  any  respect  for,  the  prohibition 
laws  and  do  not  hesitate  to  say  so.  They  consider  these  laws  discrimi- 
natory against  and  unjust  to  them  and  therefore  have  no  compunction 
in  violating  them.  If  their  attention  is  called  to  the  fact  that  these  acts 
are  the  laws  of  the  country  and  just  as  binding  on  the  people  as  any 
other  laws  and  that  violation  of  them  is  criminal,  they  almost  invariably 
come  back  with  the  assertion  that  they  do  not  believe  in  the  laws;  that 
they  are  harmful  to  themselves  and  their  families;  that  they  are  dis- 
criminatory against  the  working  people  and  the  so-called  middle 
classes,  and  that  they,  therefore,  resent  being  classed  as  criminals.  But 
they  do  admit  that  their  violation  has  a  tendency  to  teach  the  older 
and  growing  children  a  disrespect -for  other  laws  and  is  breeding 
conditions  of  crime.124 

The  price  that  the  drys  paid  for  the  partial  prohibition  of  liquor  was 
the  cheapening  of  all  the  laws  of  the  land,  and  of  all  the  procedures  of 


THE  EIGHTEENTH  Amendment  brought  new  legal  problems  to  the 
judges  of  America.  For  it  made  great  changes  in  legal  precedent 

It  withdrew  power  from  the  states  and  from  the  people.  It  did  not 
merely  grant  power  but  attempted  to  fix  an  implacable  policy.  It  vastly 

THE    TOOTHLESS    LAW   /  215 

increased  the  hitherto  limited  police  power  of  Congress.  It  vastly  cur- 
tailed the  police  power  of  the  states.  Unlike  most  other  constitutional 
prohibitions  it  was  directed  not  to  the  national  or  the  state  govern- 
ments but  to  individuals.  It  was  a  sumptuary  fiat  quite  different  from 
anything  else  found  in  the  constitution.125 

It  also  put  judges  in  the  difficult  position  of  trying  to  dovetail  a  con- 
stitutional amendment  with  other  contradictory  and  previous  amend- 
ments. If  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  strained  the  enforcement  and 
judicial  machinery  of  the  United  States,  it  tested  to  the  breaking  point 
the  very  interpretation  of  the  law  itself. 

The  Supreme  Court  was  the  ultimate  judge  of  the  most  controversial 
prohibition  cases.  After  its  famous  decisions  which  upheld  the  legality 
of  the  Webb-Kenyon  Act,  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  and  the  Vol- 
stead Act,  it  was  committed  to  make  workable  in  law  the  enforcement 
of  an  unpopular  measure.  Although  the  majority  of  the  Supreme 
Court  Judges  were  dry  in  their  sympathies,  there  were  ticklish  prob- 
lems in  aligning  dry  laws  with  the  liberties  guaranteed  to  citizens 
under  the  Constitution.  The  chief  problems  arose  over  search  and 
seizure,  trial  by  jury,  forfeiture  of  property,  double  jeopardy,  and 
methods  of  enforcement. 

The  Fourth  Amendment  to  the  Constitution  protected  American 
citizens  against  unreasonable  search  and  seizure  of  their  persons, 
papers,  houses,  and  possessions.  In  the  first  six  months  of  national 
prohibition,  more  than  seven  hundred  cases  involving  search  and 
seizure  procedures  were  reported  in  the  American  Law  Digest;  nearly 
six  hundred  of  these  cases  involved  violations  of  the  Volstead  Act. 
Although  several  states  allowed  search  and  seizure  on  the  merest  sus- 
picion or  sense  of  smell  of  officers  of  the  law,  there  was  doubt  about 
the  extent  to  which  the  Supreme  Court  of  the  United  States  would 
allow  questionable  practices  in  collecting  evidence.  Yet,  obviously, 
the  prohibition  agents  could  not  obtain  a  search  warrant  to  investigate 
every  car  suspected  of  carrying  bootleg  liquor.  In  1924,  the  Supreme 
Court  laid  down  in  the  case  of  Carroll  v.  United  States  that  vehicles 
of  transportation  might  be  searched  when  "the  seizing  officer  shall 
have  reasonable  or  probable  cause."126  Although  this  ruling  was  diffi- 
cult to  interpret,  it  did  make  the  business  of  enforcement  easier.  Even 
so,  dry  officers  without  a  search  warrant  were  still  excluded  from 
private  homes,  though  they  could  see  through  the  windows  a  distillery 
running  at  full  blast.127 

The  lengthy  process  of  trial  by  jury  would  have  made  the  enforce- 
ment of  prohibition  impossible,  for  there  were  too  many  offenders.  On 
the  other  hand,  American  citizens  were  assured  of  trial  %by  jury  for 
federal  offenses,  if  they  so  wished.  Although  the  convinced  prohibi- 

216   /THE    DRY    TREE 

tionist  wanted  to  see  the  abolition  of  trial  by  jury  in  liquor  cases,  he 
did  not  get  what  he  wanted  by  law,  although  he  was  largely  successful 
by  judicial  practice.  The  new  institution  of  "bargain  days"  in  prohibi- 
tion cases  meant  that  the  accused  person  was  glad  to  escape  the 
publicity  of  a  jury  trial  and  the  possibility  of  a  jail  sentence  in  return 
for  a  plea  of  guilty  and  a  small  fine.  Moreover,  the  practice  of  pad- 
locking for  one  year  by  legal  injunction  any  place  where  intoxicating 
liquor  was  'manufactured,  sold,  kept  or  bartered"  had  the  effect  of 
depriving  the  owners  of  these  places  of  a  jury  trial.  Although  prohibi- 
tion agents  secured  a  padlocking  injunction  in  only  one  out  of  three 
cases,  the  method  proved  so  speedy  and  effective  that  agents  pad- 
locked 4471  places  in  1925,  including  a  California  redwood  tree  which 
was  concealing  a  still.128  Padlocking  could  result  in  great  financial 
loss  to  property  owners,  if  the  padlocked  premises  were  restaurants  or 
hotels,  and  could  penalize  innocent  people  who  did  not  know  that 
their  tenants  were  using  their  property  illegally.  Although  padlocking 
was  one  of  the  most  effective  deterrents  in  the  armory  of  the  drys,  it 
did  seem  to  conflict  with  the  legal  rights  of  American  citizens.  As  one 
legal  expert  wrote,  "Like  Rome,  and  Sparta  and  Carthage,  America 
in  liquor  cases  is  becoming  in  large  measure  a  'stranger  to  the  trial 
by  jury/"129 

Although  the  claims  of  the  brewers  and  distillers  to  compensation 
for  the  effective  forfeiture  of  their  property  under  the  National  Prohi- 
bition Act  were  not  upheld,  the  owners  of  the  pre-Volstead  liquor  and 
of  rumrunning  automobiles  could  claim  the  restoration  of  their  seized 
property.180  Ownership  of  liquor  bought  before  1920  for  private  con- 
sumption was  legal  throughout  prohibition.  This  liquor  could  not  be 
seized  under  federal  law.  Moreover,  even  though  an  automobile  was 
discovered  by  prohibition  agents  to  be  carrying  bootleg  liquor,  it 
could  not  be  seized  under  the  terms  of  the  Volstead  Act  if  the  owner 
did  not  know  of  its  illegal  use.  Dry  agents  bypassed  this  difficulty, 
however,  by  securing  forfeiture  of  seized  vehicles  under  the  revenue 
law  before  proceeding  against  the  driver  of  the  car  by  criminal  prose- 
cution. In  addition,  under  some  state  laws,  rumrunning  automobiles 
and  pre-Volstead  liquor  could  be  seized  without  benefit  of  trial  by 
jury.181  Prohibition  caused  many  surprising  lapses  in  the  habitual  re- 
spect of  Americans  for  property  rights. 

Another  anomaly  in  American  law  publicized  by  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  was  the  decision  of  the  Supreme  Court  in  favor  of  double 
jeopardy.  The  Fifth  Amendment  contained  a  clause,  "nor  shall  any 
person  be  subject  for  the  same  offence  to  be  twice  put  in  jeopardy 
of  life  or  limb."  Yet,  in  1922,  the  Supreme  Court,  in  the  case  of  United 
States  v.  Lanza,  ruled  that  a  man  could  be  tried  and  convicted  twice 

Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


for  the  same  crime  —  once  by  the  state  government  and  once  by  the 
federal  government.  Since  prohibition  cases  involved  two  sovereign- 
ties, "an  act  denounced  as  a  crime  by  both  national  and  state  sover- 
eignties is  an  offense  against  the  peace  and  dignity  of  both  and  may 
be  punished  by  each."182  Although  this  decision  was  justified  in  terms 
of  past  decisions  of  the  Supreme  Court,  occasions  for  double  jeopardy 
had  been  few  and  were  now,  under  national  prohibition,  made  many. 
Even  if  this  new  opportunity  to  prosecute  people  twice  for  the  same 
offense  was  little  used,  it  was  employed  in  special  cases.188  And  these 
special  cases  added  to  the  notoriety  of  prohibition. 

But  the  most  famous  of  the  prohibition  cases  was,  perhaps,  OZm- 
stead  v.  United  States.  Roy  Olmstead,  a  former  police  lieutenant  in 
Seattle,  Washington,  ran  a  large  liquor-smuggling  ring,  which  did 

218   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

business  worth  some  two  million  dollars  a  year.  He  and  his  fellow 
conspirators  were  indicted  upon  evidence  obtained  by  tapping  their 
telephone  wires.  Although  the  Supreme  Court  upheld  the  government, 
it  was  by  a  majority  of  five  to  four.  In  dissenting,  Justice  Brandeis 
wrote  a  famous  decision,  saying  that  "discovery  and  invention  have 
made  it  possible  for  the  Government,  by  means  far  more  effective 
than  stretching  upon  the  rack,  to  obtain  disclosure  in  court  of  what  is 
whispered  in  the  closet."  Justice  Holmes  sadly  referred  to  the  whole 
thing  as  "such  a  dirty  business/'  Ten  years  later,  the  Supreme  Court 
reversed  the  decision  under  the  Federal  Communications  Act  of  1934. 
It  feared  the  increased  control  of  the  government  over  the  lives  of 
private  citizens  through  the  mass  media,  and  honored  the  eloquent 
plea  of  Brandeis  for  "the  right  to  be  let  alone  — the  most  compre- 
hensive of  rights  and  the  right  most  valued  by  civilized  men."184 

There  were  many  international  cases  fought  in  the  courts  over  the 
search  and  seizure  of  rumrunners  in  international  waters.  The  most 
celebrated  of  these  was  the  sinking  of  the  Canadian  ship  I'm  Alone  by 
an  American  Coast  Guard  cutter.  The  cutter  had  pursued  the  Tm 
Alone  from  American  territorial  waters  to  a  distance  of  some  two  hun- 
dred miles  off  the  American  coast,  before  it  finally  sunk  the  smuggler. 
The  American  case  rested  on  the  fact  that  the  cutter  had  remained 
continuously  in  hot  pursuit  of  the  Tm  Alone;  the  Canadian  owners 
demanded  compensation  since  their  vessel  was  far  outside  territorial 
waters.  The  whole  incident  caused  bad  blood  between  the  United 
States  and  Canada.  Eventually,  the  United  States  paid  compensation, 
and  the  matter  was  settled  to  the  satisfaction  of  Canadian  pride. 

Prohibition  caused  the  judges  of  the  law  to  strain  their  interpreta- 
tions of  that  law  in  an  effort  to  reconcile  the  irreconcilable.  The  in- 
clusion of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  in  the  Constitution  seemed  to 
many  to  put  "a  hideous  wart  on  its  nose."135  Although  the  judges  of 
America  were  charged  with  mediating  between  new  laws  and  old 
precedents,  there  was  a  limit  to  their  powers  of  arbitration.  The  diffi- 
culties brought  to  the  courts  by  prohibition  stretched  those  powers 
of  arbitration  to  their  limit.  And  the  prohibition  law  itself  made  un- 
popular those  who  had  to  interpret  it,  the  supreme  courts  of  the  land. 
The  organizers,  the  makers,  the  policemen,  and  the  judges  of  the  dry 
laws  lost  repute,  for  the  law  created  a  hatred  of  those  whose  duty  was 
its  enforcement.  As  the  notable  lawyer  Elihu  Root  wrote  after  the 
New  York  Repeal  Convention  of  1933,  "It  will  take  a  long  time  for  our 
country  to  recover  from  the  injury  done  by  that  great  and  stupid  error 
in  government."136  It  did.  Many  years  of  tradition  are  needed  to  build 
up  respect  for  the  law,  and  once  the  tradition  is  broken,  it  is  not  easily 
put  together  again. 

THE    TOOTHLESS     LAW   /   219 

The  fact  of  national  prohibition  presented  insoluble  problems  to  the 
machinery  of  the  law  in  the  United  States.  Judges  and  prisons  and 
policemen  were  few;  stills  and  home-brewers  and  bootleggers  were 
many.  Yet  this  excess  of  law  and  lack  of  possible  enforcement  was,  as 
Walter  Lippmann  noticed  in  1932,  endemic  to  the  national  scene.  The 
idea  of  moral  perfection  made  the  American  people  enshrine  in  their 
Constitution  ideals  which  they  could  not  fulfill,  and  made  them  outlaw 
habits  in  which  they  rather  generally  indulged.  By  their  moral  fervor 
as  lawmakers,  they  made  a  large  part  of  the  people  the  allies  and 
clients  of  lawbreakers.  And,  at  the  same  time,  they  insisted  that  the 
federal  government  which  executed  the  laws  should  remain  weak.  The 
very  same  voters  and  lawmakers  who  made  laws  which  would  defeat 
the  powers  of  a  despotism  were  jealous  to  the  point  of  absurdity  about 
giving  their  own  executive  and  judiciary  any  power  at  all.  Thus  the 
United  States  had  "the  strongest  laws  and  the  weakest  government  of 
any  highly  civilized  people/'137  It  also  had  the  strongest  criminal  classes 
and  weakest  public  sentiment  against  them  of  any  highly  civilized 



The  Respectable  Crime 

I  make  my  money  by  supplying  a  public  demand.  If  I 
break  the  law,  my  customers,  who  number  hundreds  of  the 
best  people  in  Chicago,  are  as  guilty  as  I  am.  The  only  dif- 
ference between  us  is  that  I  sell  and  they  buy.  Everybody 
calls  me  a  racketeer.  I  call  myself  a  business  man.  When  I 
sell  liquor,  it's  bootlegging.  When  my  patrons  serve  it  on  a 
silver  tray  on  Lake  Shbre  Drive,  it's  hospitality. 


O,  to  hell  with  them  Sicilians. 


Once  you're  in  with  us  you're  in  for  life. 


The  country  club  people  will  probably  go  on  boozing  un- 
til the  end  of  time.  The  best  prohibition  can  hope  to  accom- 
plish is  to  save  the  poor  man.  It  saves  him  by  making  drink 
too  expensive  for  him. 


THE  PROHIBITIONISTS  thought  that  the  sale  of  liquor  was  a  social 
I  crime,  that  the  drinking  of  liquor  was  a  racial  crime,  and  that  the 
results  of  liquor  were  criminal  actions.  They  quoted  Havelock  Ellis 
for  their  hereditary  and  environmental  ammunition.  "Alcoholism  in 
either  of  the  parents  is  one  of  the  most  fruitful  causes  of  crime  in  the 
child."1  They  quoted  Lombroso  and  nineteenth-century  criminologists 
to  prove  that  liquor  was  responsible  for  most  criminal  acts.  The  exten- 
sive researches  of  the  Committee  of  Fifty  on  the  case  histories  of  more 
than  thirteen  thousand  convicts  found  that  liquor  was  a  cause  in  50 
per  cent  of  all  crimes,  the  first  cause  in  31  per  cent,  and  the  sole  cause 
in  16  per  cent.  Although  these  figures  were  exaggerated,  they  were 
the  only  ones  available  until  the  close  of  national  prohibition.  The 
reason  for  that  exaggeration  was  the  fact  that  criminals  usually  put 
the  blame  for  their  actions  on  liquor  rather  than  themselves,  hoping 



that  the  judge  would  treat  them  more  leniently.  Prohibition  made  such 
an  excuse  unfashionable,  and  a  Freudian  or  social  plea  for  mitigation 
took  its  place.  Criminals  pleaded  that  they  had  been  deprived  in  some 
way  by  nature  or  by  society.  And  the  crimes  once  charged  against 
liquor  were  now  charged  against  the  prohibitionists,  who  were  accused 
of  causing  the  rise  of  the  national  syndicates  of  crooks  and  murder 
gangs  by  making  over  to  them  all  the  profits  of  the  illegal  liquor  trade. 
In  the  judgment  of  the  famous  criminologist,  John  Landesco,  prohibi- 
tion had  enormously  increased  the  personnel  and  power  of  organized 
crime.  It  had  "opened  up  a  new  criminal  occupation,  with  less  risk  of 
punishment,  with  more  certainty  of  gain,  and  with  less  social  stigma 
than  the  usual  forms  of  crime  like  robbery,  burglary,  and  larceny."2 

Gangs  and  crime  syndicates  did  not  begin  with  prohibition.  They 
rose  to  power  through  the  saloons,  gambling  houses,  and  brothels  of 
the  nineteenth  century,  and  through  the  murderous  wars  of  labor  and 
capital  in  the  days  of  the  robber  barons.  Al  Capone  inherited  his  em- 
pire on  the  South  Side  of  Chicago  as  the  heir  of  a  line  of  vice  bosses, 
such  as  Big  Jim  Colosimo  and  John  Torrio.  If  this  criminal  estate  was 
and  is  bequeathed  frequently  because  of  jail  or  sudden  death  or  loss 
of  nerve,  it  has  endured  longer  than  many  American  bequests. 

The  simultaneous  coming  of  automobiles,  Thompson  machine  guns, 
and  telephones  allowed  successful  local  gangsters  to  extend  their  con- 
trol over  whole  cities  and  states.  To  do  this,  they  needed  a  steady  in- 
come. This  income  was  provided  by  national  prohibition.  In  the  early 
days  of  the  Volstead  Act,  gangsters  were  merely  the  "fronts"  of  ordi- 
nary businessmen  who  owned  the  breweries  and  distilleries.  They 
provided  protection  and  ensured  delivery  of  the  liquor,  while  the  busi- 
nessmen had  the  necessary  political  influence  to  prevent  interference. 
In  the  first  four  years  of  prohibition  in  Chicago,  under  the  corrupt 
administration  of  William  Hale  Thompson,  John  Torrio  was  in  partner- 
ship with  a  well-known  brewer,  Joseph  Stenson,  who  put  the  stamp  of 
Gold  Coast  respectability  on  the  Torrio  gang.  As  the  Chicago  Tribune 
said,  Stenson  was  "the  silk  hat  for  the  crowd/*  He  had  contacts  in  the 
federal  building.  He  raised  the  money,  bought  the  discontinued  brew- 
eries, and  made  "the  connections  necessary  to  undisturbed  brewing." 
He  then  installed  a  board  of  directors  in  the  brewery,  who  would 
"take  the  fair  when  there  was  trouble;  they  would  even  go  to  jail 
while  Stenson  escaped  scot-free.  In  1924,  the  profits  of  the  Torrio- 
Stenson  combine  were  estimated  at  fifty  million  dollars  in  four  years, 
of  which  Stenson's  share  was  twelve  million  dollars.8 
.  A  reform  mayor,  William  Dever,  however,  succeeded  Thompson. 
His  policy  was  to  prosecute  the  large  bootleggers,  not  their  stooges. 
His  new  chief  of  police  raided  the  Sieben  brewery  on  May  19,  1924, 

222   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

and  found  enough  evidence  to  indict  most  of  the  leading  gangsters 
and  pre- Volstead  brewers  of  Chicago.  The  brewers,  however,  had 
enough  influence  to  vanish  from  the  indictment.  Torrio  and  two  of  his 
aides  were  convicted.  He  lost  prestige  as  a  result,  was  shot  down  by 
rival  gangsters,  recovered,  and  emigrated  to  Italy,  leaving  his  empire 
in  the  hands  of  Al  Capone.  The  old-time  brewers  were  also  scared 
and  left  the  beer  business  to  their  previous  employees,  the  hoodlums 
and  killers.  Only  the  public  suffered  from  ^paying  enough  to  satisfy 
both  businessmen  and  criminals  for  their  liquor,  j 

The  profits  of  prohibition  were  so  enormou^  that  a  pattern  devel- 
oped for  the  manufacture  and  sale  of  illicit  liquor.  From  1920  to  1923, 
there  were  a  host  of  small  bootleggers  and  rumrunners  competing  for 
the  profits  of  the  trade.  Only  those  criminal  gangs  which  were  already 
organized  in  the  large  cities,  such  as  the  Torrio  gang  in  Chicago  and 
the  Unione  Siciliano,  could  keep  an  enormous  slice  of  the  cake  for 
themselves.  The  bootleg  situation  was  similar  to  the  American  business 
situation  in  the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century.  The  rise  of  the  big 
bootleggers  paralleled  the  rise  of  the  robber  barons  and  trusts,  with 
the  elimination,  through  terror  or  murder  or 'price  cutting,  of  all 
rivals.  During  the  five  years  .after.  19.24,.  the-  big-city_gang  jwarsjlour- 
ished,  and  the  remniants'of  the  respectable  brewers  and  distillers,  who 
were  still  in  the  illegal  trade,  fled  for  their  lives.  In  the  tiineroflthe 
jconsolidation  of  Capone V power  in  Chicago,  there. were  between  350 
and  400  murders  annually  in  Cook  County,  Illinois,  and  an  average 
of  100  bombings  each  year.  By  1929,  however,  a  convention  of  major 
racketeers  could  meet  at  Atlantic  City,  New  Jersey,  each  with  his"He- 
fined  territory,  in  which  he  held  monopolistic  power.  The  condottieri 
of  New  York -Frank  Costello,  Frankie  Yale,  Larry  Fay,  Dutch 
Schultz,  and  Owney  Madden  — knew  their  place,  and  relinquished 
Philadelphia  to  Maxie  Hoff,  Detroit  to  the  Purple  Gang,  Cincinnati 
and  St.  Louis  to  the  old  Remus  mob,  Kansas  City  to  Solly  Weissman, 
and  the  major  part  of  Chicago  to  Capone.  Indeed,  a  case  could  be 
made  for  the  good  results  of  organized  gangdom.  The  menace  of  the 
unattached  hoodlum  had  almost  disappeared,  for  the  police  and  regu- 
lar gangs  co-operated  to  eliminate  him.4  In  the  suppression  of  competi- 
tion, the  big  gangs  were  a  positive  benefit  to  society. 

But,  on  the  whole,  the  gangs  made  more  rotten  the  rotten  situation 
which  had  existed  in  the  days  of  the  red-light  districts  and  old-time 
saloons.  In  its  practical  effects,  national  prohibition  transferred  two 
billion  dollars  a  year  from  the  hands  of  brewers,  distillers,  and  share- 
holders to  the  hands  of  murderers,  crooks,  and  illiterates.  However 
badly  the  liquor  traders  and  shareholders  misused  their  wealth,  their 
middle-class  sympathies  prevented  their  money  power  from  spreading 

From  Outlook  and  Independent 


a  slimy  trail  of  racketeering  and  corruption  everywhere.  In  politics 
and  in  business,  in  labor  unions  and  employers'  associations,  m  public 
services_ajadLprivate  industries,  prohibition  was  the  golden  pease 
tiuFough  wl^^^ff^iS^crme  insinuated  itself  into  a  position  of 
incre3SBlevfcp6wer  in  the  nation. 

224   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

The  Reed  Committee  of  1926  divulged  some  of  the  influence  of 
gangsters  in  politics.  Worse  evidence  was  to  come.  In  the  primary 
elections  in  Chicago  two  years  later,  "pineapple"  bombs  were  exploded 
at  the  polls,  and  hordes  of  gangsters  openly  intimidated  voters.  Al- 
though such  an  unwise  display  of  force  caused  a  public  reaction  and 
revulsion,  it  showed  the  sorry  state  into  which  the  citizens  of  Chicago 
had  allowed  themselves  to  fall.  They  were  caught  between  the  mutual 
services  rendered  to  each  other  by  the  political  bosses  and  the  gang 
leaders.  The  politicians  would  prevent  the  police  force  from  proceed- 
ing against  gamblers,  panders,  bootleg  kings,  and  racketeers  in  return 
for  large  campaign  contributions  and  blocks  of  votes  on  election  day.5 
The  Illinois  Crime  Survey  of  1929  discovered  that  chain  voters,  colo- 
nized voters,  and  crooked  election  boards  were  recruited  regularly 
"from  the  ranks  of  organized  crime.6  Only  the  mass  vote  of  the  aroused 
middle  classes  of  Chicago  could  make  occasional  forays  of  reform 
against  the  eternal  tie-up  between  crime  and  politics  and  liquor,  which 
was  bad  before  and  after,  and  at  its  worst  during,  prohibition. 
"*  There  were  connections  between  the  class  struggle  in  America  and 
the  rise  of  the  gangsters.7  Employers  first  used  criminals  against  strik- 
ers. Hundreds  of  gunmen  were  hired  through  detective  agencies  to 
protect  machines  and  scabs  against  armed  strikers,  and  to  assault  and 
murder  union  organizers  among  the  workers.  Later,  in  the  same  way 
that  the  drys  had  copied  the  tactics  of  the  wets  and  were  in  turn  copied 
by  them,  the  labor  unions  hired  professional  gangsters  to  attack  scabs 
and  foremen,  and  dynamite  mills  and  factories.  This  retaliation  led  to 
the  hiring  of  permanent  private  armies  by  large  industrialists  and 
fanners,  such  as  the  notorious  coal  and  iron  police  of  Pennsylvania 
and  the  thugs  of  the  California  grape  growers,  described  in  The 
Grapes  of  Wrath* 

Perhaps  the  most  flagrant  connection  of  big  business  and  the  prohi- 
bition gangsters  was  through  Harry  Bennett's  "Ford  Service  Depart- 
ment," the  largest  private  army  in  America.  The  ringleader  of  Detroit's 
underworld,  Chester  LaMare,  whose  bootlegging  empire  was  esti- 
mated by  federal  agents  to  be  grossing  $215,000,000  a  year  in  1928,  was 
a  partner  in  a  Ford  sales  agency  and  owned  the  fruit  concession  at  the 
Ford  plant  at  River  Rouge.*  While  technically  employed  by  the  Ford 
Service,  LaMare  spent  his  time  developing  his  enormous  racketeering 
industry  until  he  was  shot  down  by  rivals.  Joe  Adonis,  the  Brooklyn 
bootlegger  and  racketeer,  was  also  on  the  Ford  payroll  as  the  exclu- 
sive trucker  of  Ford  cars  to  markets  on  the  Eastern  seaboard.  There 
were,  in  addition,  up  to  eight  thousand  men  with  prison  sentences  in 
the  Ford  factories,  whom  Harry  Bennett  claimed,  in  Ford's  name,  to 
be  "rehabilitating."  Throughout  the  twenties  and  thirties  the  Ford 


plants  remained  outside  the  labor  unions,  while  strikers  and  organizers 
were  killed,  beaten  up,  and  threatened  by  Ford  Service  men  and 
criminals.10  This  alliance  between  the  biggest  of  businessmen  and  the 
underworld  gave  immunity  to  gangsters  from  prosecution  for  their 
bootlegging  and  immunity  to  businessmen  in  their  defiance  of  labor 
unions.  Both  were  guaranteed  the  profits  which  they  set  for  them- 
selves, and  were  insured  against  assault  by  each  other.  Again,  only 
American  democracy  and  the  American  people  suffered. 

Yet  if  big  business  was  flagrantly  guilty  of  encouraging  the  entry  of 
gangsters  into  the  business  world  and  of  protecting  gangsters  against 
legal  penalties  in  return  for  their  help  against  workingmen,  the  labor 
unions  were  also  guilty  of  calling  in  gangsters  to  aid  them,  and  of 
losing  control  of  the  unions  themselves  to  the  gangsters.  For  instance, 
in  the  war  between  the  garment  workers  and  garment  manufacturers 
in  New  York  in  1926,  the  unions  employed  Augie  Orgen's  gang  of 
thugs  to  use  against  the  hired  mercenaries  of  the  employers,  Legs 
Diamond  and  his  gang.  A  simultaneous  plea  to  the  underworld  boss 
of  the  time,  Arnold  Rothstein,  made  him  call  off  both  gangs,  for  they 
were  both  under  his  control.11  But  his  price  was  a  cut  in  the  profits  of 
the  industry.  Similarly,  in  other  great  cities,  gangsters  were  called  in 
to  protect  labor  from  the  gorillas  hired  by  capital.  The  result  was  that 
some  labor  unions  fell  into  the  hands  of  the  gangsters.  Indeed,  they 
were  often  forced  to  hire  gunmen  to  proctect  their  own  strikers  against 
the  local  police  force.  The  "Strong-Arm  Squad"  of  the  New  York  City 
police  was  particularly  brutal  towards  strikers;  in  the  furriers'  strike, 
they  were  paid  some  $30,000  to  beat  up  strikers  and  protect  strike- 
breakers.12 The  president  of  the  Cigarmakers'  International  Union  told 
the  Wickersham  Commission  that  this  sad  state  of  affairs  was  due  to 

The  police  departments  tiiroughout  the  country  where  we  have  to 
conduct  our  work  have  been  completely  demoralized;  the  police  de- 
partments are  charging  so  much  to  permit  a  barrel  of  beer  to  come 
into  a  speak-easy  and  so  much  for  a  case  of  whisky.  Now,  when  we 
have  a  strike  on  in  some  of  the  important  cities  we  get  the  worst  of  it 
unless  we  pay  the  police  officer;  so  he  has  become  so  accustomed  to 
closing  his  eyes  to  the  violation  of  the  law.18 

JThe  gangsters,  however,  as  the^grew  in  numbersan^poxggr  on  the 
-profits  of  prohibiticmTdH  to  intervene 

JDjcJabor  of  ~  management.  Of ten,  they  merely  "muscled  in"  on  any 
trade^wMch  would  pay  them  money  for  protection  against  themselves. 
This  method  of  blackmail  was  called  a  "racket,"  a  word  which  was 
used  widely  after  1927.  It  was  defined  as  "any  scheme  by  which  human 

226   /THE    DRY    TREE 

parasites  graft  themselves  upon  and  live  by  the  industry  of  others, 
maintaining  their  hold  by  intimidation,  force,  and  terrorism/'14  Its 
methods  were  simple.  First  the  gang  leader  chose  his  line  of  exploita- 
tion. Then  he  threatened  all  traders  in  his  line  that  if  they  did  not  pay 
him  a  monthly  bribe  he  would  destroy  them  and  their  businesses.  In 
return,  he  would  protect  the  traders  from  any  competition  by  other 
traders  in  the  same  line  who  were  not  paying  the  bribe.  In  Chicago,  in 
the  heyday  of  Capone,  there  were  at  least  sixty  active  rackets  flourish- 
ing in  the  city.  For  a  long  time,  every  man  in  Chicago  who  wanted  his 
trousers  pressed  paid  fifty  cents  to  the  racket,  since  gangsters  con- 
trolled the  cleaners'  and  dyers'  trade.  Crooks  also  controlled  the 
Chicago  bakers,  barbers,  electrical  workers,  garage  men,  shoe  repair- 
ers, plumbers,  garbage  haulers,  window  cleaners,  milk  salesmen,  con- 
fectionary dealers,  and  undertakers.  The  cost  of  these  sixty  rackets  to 
the  people  of  Chicago  was  estimated  at  $136,000,000  a  year,  while 
gangsters  from  all  their  illegal  activities  were  thought  to  be  earning 
$6,000,000  weekly.  It  was  a  high  price  to  pay  to  murderers  and  petty 

The  entry  of  gangsters  into  legitimate  business  was  made  easy  by 
archaic  restraint-of-trade  laws  against  price  fixing  and  labor  unions. 
Moreover,  the  actual  sentiments  of  the  class  struggle  supported  the 
gangster  who  achieved  results  by  violence.  As  Landesco  found  out  in 
his  study  of  the  "42"  gang  in  Chicago,  young  men  in  the  poor  quarters 
of  Chicago  knew  that  crime,  on  die  whole,  did  not  pay,  but  "from 
experience  they  have  also  learned  that  it  is  the  only  avenue  available 
to  them/'16  The  wealthy  racketeer  arid  bootlegger  was,  in  the  eyes  of 
the  Italian  or  the  Slavic  community,  the  American  dream  come  true. 
The  recent  immigrants  had  come  to  America  in  pursuit  of  a  golden 
mirage,  and  those  among  them  who  made  fortunes  by  violating  anti- 
pathetic laws  were  their  first  heroes  and  helpers.  They  were  the 
"successes  of  the  neighborhood/'17  The  prestige  and  power  of  the 
Unione  Siciliano  gave  all  poverty-stricken  Sicilians  a  hope  in  the  future 
and  a  certain  national  pride  against  an  America  which  discriminated 
against  them.  Only  those  few  Sicilians  who  had  respectable  jobs  in 
middle-class  professions  hated  the  reputation  which  the  Unione  gave 
to  the  Sicilian  people.  The  plea  of  such  priests  as  Father  Louis  Giam- 
bastiani  against  the  internecine  slaughter  of  the  Sicilian  gangs  was 
rare  in  a  community  which  associated  wealth  and  power  with  criminal 

The  chief  sources  of  bootleg  liquor  in  all  major  cities  by  the  close 
of  prohibition  were  to  be  found  in  the  tenements,  in  the  Little  Italys 
and  Little  Bohemias  of  the  slums.  There,  the  tenement  dwellers  were 
organized  by  the  gangsters  into  an  army  of  alky  cookers  and  booze- 


runners.  The  accusation  of  the  drys  that  most  of  the  large  bootleggers 
were  of  foreign  extraction  was  correct;  but  the  contention  of  the  wets 
that  most  of  the  hard-liquor  drinkers,  who  kept  the  bootleggers  in 
business,  were  of  old  American  stock  was  also  correct.  Indeed,  the 
patronage  of  the  new  America  by  the  old  was  one  of  the  first  efforts 
made  by  the  old  America  to  look  after  the  welfare  of  the  new.  Al- 
though the  prohibition  laws  only  proceeded  against  the  sellers  and 
manufacturers  of  bootleg,  not  the  buyers,  with  the  consequence  'that 
the  foreign-born  landed  in  jail  more  frequently  than  their  patrons, 
Americans  of  an  older  vintage  were  responsible  for  keeping  the  boot- 
leg trade  in  such  a  healthy  financial  state.  And  even  though  a  higher 
percentage  of  foreign-born  Americans  were  sentenced  for  drunkenness 
and  violation  of  liquor  laws  and  neglect  of  their  families,  the  virtue 
of  the  native-born  could  hardly  be  maintained  on  the  basis  of  crime 
figures.  For  a  higher  percentage  of  native  white  Americans  violated 
narcotic  laws,  and  the  laws  against  fraud,  forgery,  robbery,  adultery, 
and  rape.18 

If  the  sympathy  of  the  poor  was  on  the  side  of  the  bootlegger  and 
criminal,  for  traditional  Mediterranean  reasons  as  well  as  for  reasons 
of  poverty,  so  was  much  of  the  sympathy  of  the  rich.  The  underside  of 
the  cafe  society  which  grew  up  in  the  twenties  was  simply  a  service 
trade  in  vice.19  In  the  sense  that  respectable  people  patronized  crimi- 
nals, America  had  the  criminals  it  deserved.20  Matthew  Woll  spoke 
for  a  host  of  law-abiding  people  before  the  Wickersham  Commission, 
when  he  said  of  the  racketeers: 

Today  there  is  not  any  feeling  of  resentment  against  them,  because 
they  are  looked  upon  as  being  part  of  a  trade  to  satisfy  a  social  want. 
There  is  not  a  feeling  of  prosecution  on  behalf  of  the  law  even  for  the 
most  vicious  crime  committed.  It  is  all  a  reflection  on  the  social  mind. 
We  seek  by  law  to  tell  the  people  you  can  not  do  so  and  so,  when  the 
people  are  not  in  that  frame  of  mind.  .  .  .  They  want  their  liquor. 
They  do  not  care  what  chances  the  other  fellow  takes  so  long  as  they 
don't  take  the  chance.21 

The  concept  of  the  honest  bootlegger,  making  a  living  out  of  a  trade 
just  as  other  people  did,  was  a  common  rationalization  of  respectable 
men  to  excuse  their  patronage  of  criminals.  This  attitudej3ven_ex- 
tended  totiheu ;  children,  wiwrvotecHnH^ 
tooklirsF place  in  communitj^activities.22 

^^n^e^H^^wSiSSg  aliving  was  more  sacred  to  many  Americans 
than  life  itself.28  The  whole  of  American  society  was  too  close  to  the 
violence  of  the  frontier  and  the  city  jungle  to  worry  unduly  over  the 
vendettas  of  gangsters.  Where  the  law  was  inefficient  and  graft-ridden 

228   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


(no  legal  punishment  was  given  for  even  one  of  the  130  gang  murders 
in  Chicago  between  1926  and  1927),  respectable  people  were  content 
to  let  criminals  slay  their  own.  In  the  belief  in  rough  justice  rather 
than  the  rotten  enforcement  of  the  law,  in  the  dislike  of  informing  on 
men  who  were  fulfilling  a  public  service  in  the  eyes  of  most  city 
dwellers,  the  prohibition  racketeers  flourished  unchecked,  until  they 
began  to  be  damned  by  bad  publicity. 

The  criminals  themselves  were  encouraged  by  the  patronage  of  the 
respectable  to  think  that  they  were  equally  good  members  of  society. 
Al  Capone  himself  asked,  "What' s  Al  Capone  done,  then?  He's  sup- 
plied a  legitimate  demand.  Some  call  it  bootlegging.  Some  call  it 
racketeering.  I  call  it  a  business.  They  say  I  violate  the  prohibition 
law.  Who  doesn't?"24  The  fact  that  he  ordered  murders  seemed  to  him 
merely  a  method  of  business  organization  in  criminal  circles;  it  was 
certainly  true  that  the  magnates  of  early  American  big  business  had 
also  condoned  murders  by  their  private  police.  In  fact,  Capone  suf- 
fered under  a  delusion  of  conspiracy  against  him  as  severe  as  that  of 
the  drys.  He  protested: 

I  don't  interfere  with  big  business.  None  of  the  big  business  guys 
can  say  I  ever  took  a  dollar  from  'em.  Why,  I  done  a  favor  for  one  of 


the  big  newspapers  in  the  country  when  they  was  up  against  it.  Broke 
a  strike  for  'em.  And  what  do  I  get  for  doing  'em  a  favor?  Here  they've 
been  ever  since,  clamped  on  my  back.  I  only  want  to  do  business,  you 
understand,  with  my  own  class.  Why  can't  they  let  me  alone?  I  don't 
interfere  with  them  any.  Get  me?  I  don't  interfere  with  their  racket. 
They  should  let  my  racket  be. 

In  Capone's  terms,  he  dealt  as  fairly  with  the  poor  and  the  drinkers 
as  big  business  dealt  with  the  rich  and  the  consumers.  Indeed,  Capone 
even  had  the  gall  to  say,  "Prohibition  has  made  nothing  but  trouble  — 
trouble  for  all  of  us.  Worst  thing  ever  hit  the  country.  Why,  I  tried 
to  get  into  legitimate  business  two  or  three  times,  but  they  won't  stand 
for  it."25  At  the  time  of  this  remark,  Capone  was  making  between 
$60,000,000  and  $100,000,000  a  year  from  the  sale  of  beer  alone. 

But  there  was  a  reaction  in  Chicago  and  in  the  nation  against  the 
excesses  of  the  gangsters,  as  there  was  a  reaction  against  the  ex- 
cesses of  the  drys.  The  famous  killing  of  Dean  O'Banion  in  his 
flower  shop  might  be  forgiven  as  a  feud  between  rival  condottieri. 
But  the  murders  of  Assistant  State  Attorney  William  H.  McSwiggin,  in 
Capone's  headquarters  at  Cicero,  and  of  a  crime  reporter  four  years 
later  aroused  public  opinion.  Groups  of  citizens  and  lawyers  were 
formed  to  arm  themselves  against  gangsters  and  secure  federal  action; 
previously,  the  only  vigilante  group  in  Chicago  had  been  a  band  of 
wealthy  men  who  had  organized  themselves  in  1919  to  defend  their 
liquor  cellars  against  thieves.26  The  final  killing  of  seven  hoodlums  in 
a  garage  on  St.  Valentine's  Day,  1929,  was  the  end  of  Chicago's  easy 
acceptance  of  gang  rule.  The  massacre  was,  in  the  famous  apocryphal 
remark,  "lousy  public  relations."  Capone  himself  was  committed  to  jail 
for  eleven  years  in  1931  for  income  tax  evasion.  His  attorneys  offered 
the  Bureau  of  Internal  Revenue  a  bribe  of  $4,000,000,  which  was 
refused.27  The  New  Republic  noted  that  Bishop  James  Cannon,  Jr., 
was  on  trial  at  the  same  time.  "Justice,  in  clutching  at  these  two  cul- 
prits at  once,  has  not  shown  itself  wanting  in  the  sense  of  the  fitness 
of  things."  For  "the  one  makes  blue  laws;  the  other  arises  to  undo 

The  prominence  of  gangsters  in  American  life  did  nothing  to  help 
the  dry  cause.  The  only  defense  of  the  drys  was  that  gangsters  were 
powerful  long  before  prohibition,  on  the  profits  of  the  saloons  and 
brothels.  The  wets  countered  by  pointing  out  that  prohibition  had 
fattened  the  profits  of  gangsters  to  an  unparalleled  extent.  Moreover, 
their  new  money  power  purchased  them  immunity  from  all  forms  of 
legal  punishment  for  any  crime  which  they  committed.  The  Illinois 
Crime  Survey  showed  that  criminals  engaged  in  bootlegging  did  not 
give  up  other  forms  of  crime.  They  continued  to  practice  their  pre- 

230   /THE    DRY    TREE 

Volstead  lines  of  knavery,  but,  on  account  of  the  new  prestige  and 
power  of  the  gang,  members  of  gangs  tended  to  secure  immunity 
from  punishment  not  only  for  bootlegging,  but  for  these  other  crimes 
as  well.20  The  immunity  of  the  gangsters  from  prosecution  and  the 
contemporary  killing  of  certain  innocents  by  employees  of  the  Prohi- 
bition Bureau  gave  the  wets  a  strong  propaganda  case.  In  the  words 
of  Senator  Edwards,  of  New  Jersey,  "It  is  noticeable  that  two  kinds  of 
people  have  been  killed  by  the  Prohibition  agents:  the  poor  and  the 
innocent.  The  Chicago  gunmen  who  not  only  broke  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  but  who  have  killed  right  and  left  have  scarcely  been 
molested.  They  were  guilty  and  rich/'80 

The  history  of  prohibition  and  crime  shows  how  the  tolerance  exer- 
cised towards  criminals  by  respectable  citizens,  labor,  and  capital 
allowed  gangsters  to  take  over  local  governments,  as  Capone  did  the 
government  of  the  small  town  of  Cicero,  and  even  state  governments. 
The  loot  of  prohibition  was  sufficient  to  buy  judges,  state  attorneys, 
and  whole  police  forces.  It  enabled  the  gangsters  to  spread  their  in- 
fluence into  new  areas  of  legitimate  business.  They  were  allowed  to 
terrorize  citizens  so  much  that  no  Chicago  jury  would  return  a  verdict 
of  murder  against  a  gunman,  because  of  fear.  Hymie  Weiss,  after  he 
was  gunned  down  by  the  Capone  gang,  was  found  to  be  carrying  the 
full  lists  of  the  jury  and  the  witnesses  for  the  prosecution  in  the  pro- 
posed murder  trial  of  his  fellow  criminal,  Joe  Saltis.  In  the  words  of 
John  Stege,  deputy  commissioner  of  the  Chicago  police,  a  man  could 
"figure  out  gangdom's  murders  and  attempted  murders  with  a  pencil 
and  paper,  but  never  with  a  judge  and  jury."31  It  was  tragic  that  the 
fantastic  opportunities  for  corruption  and  intimidation  in  the  prohibi- 
tion era  made  a  mockery  of  all  the  laws  of  America,  which  had  been 
designed  to  protect  the  liberty  of  the  individual  and  were  perverted  to 
license  the  anarchy  of  gangsters. 


As  FROHiBmoN  brought  respectability  to  the  criminal,  so  the  speak- 
easy brought  respectability  to  the  saloon.  The  heyday  of  the  speak- 
easy was  during  the  twenties,  when  it  flourished  like  the  hydra.  Chop 
off  one  of  its  heads,  and  two  grew  in  its  place.  It  displaced  the  old 
restaurants  and  cabaret  entertainments,  and  offered  in  their  place 
night-club  acts,  liquor,  and  indifferent  food  at  huge  prices.  In  1929, 
the  police  commissioner  of  New  York  City  estimated  that  there  were 
32,000  speak-easies  in  the  metropolis,  double  the  number  of  saloons 
and  blind  pigs  of  the  old  days.82  The  Police  Department  dropped  this 
figure  to  9000  speak-easies  in  1933,  the  worst  year  of  the  depression 


Brown  Brothers  Photographers 


and  the  last  year  of  national  prohibition.88  A  moderate  calculation  of 
the  whole  number  of  speak-easies  in  the  United  States  at  this  time  put 
the  number  at  219,000,  a  little  less  than  the  number  of  saloons  and 
blind  pigs  on  the  eve  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment.34  If  the  speak- 
easy was  spawned  by  prohibition  and  the  boom,  it  was  doomed  by 
repeal  and  the  slump.  Texas  Guinan,  the  night-club  queen  of  the 
twenties,  used  to  give  three  cheers  for  prohibition  and  demand, 
'Where  the  hell  would  I  be  without  prohibition?"  And  the  sucker  was 
right  who  replied,  "Nowhere." 

The  usual  speak-easy  was  a  very  different  place  from  the  old  saloon. 
For  a  corner  location,  the  speak-easy  substituted  a  back  room,  a  base- 
ment, or  a  "first-floor  flat."85  Swinging  doors  were  replaced  by  locked 
doors  containing  a  peephole.  Carpets  or  bare  boards  took  the  floor 
from  sawdust.  The  mirror  behind  the  bar,  the  barkeeper's  third  eye, 
remained  in  place;  but  there  was  no  free  lunch.  Drink  prices  went 
up  from  two  to  ten  times,  depending  on  supplies  and  law  enforce- 
ment The  quality  of  spirits  in  the  expensive  speak-easies  reached  the 
pre-Volstead  level  after  the  first  two  years  of  adulterated  hell.  Beer, 
however,  declined  in  quality  and  wine  even  more  so. 

The  speak-easy  brought  sonje  benefits,  once  it  had  become  a  na- 
tional institution.  It  discouraged  the  patronage  of  down-and-outs,  who 
might  talk  to  honest  policemen  but  could  not  pay  enough  to  help 

232   /THE    DRY    TREE 

bribe  dishonest  policemen.  It  put  an  end  to  the  saloon  custom  of  treat- 
ing to  drinks;  Jack  London,  in  John  Barleycorn,  tells  of  the  fatal  effects 
of  this  custom  on  nineteen  sailors  who  were  made  the  drunken  victims 
of  land  sharks  by  treating  their  friends  and  being  treated  in  return 
before  they  could  in  honor  leave  for  their  homes.86  Also,  the  custom 
of  allowing  drinkers  to  pour  their  own  whisky  out  of  the  traditional 
black  bottle  was  superseded  by  the  measured  amount  served  in  a  glass. 
Bootleg  liquor  was  too  expensive  to  allow  barflies  to  administer  their 
own  quantity  of  poison. 

But,  equally,  the  speak-easy  brought  more  evils  in  its  train  than  the 
saloon  had.  A  poll  of  speak-easy  proprietors  in  New  York  in  1930  dis- 
covered that  they  opposed  prohibition  in  a  ratio  of  twenty  to  one. 
-This  result  was  contrary  to  the  popular  belief  that  the  owners  of  the 
speak-easies  and  the  drys  co-operated  to  keep  the  Volstead  Act  in 
force  for  their  mutual  benefit.  The  proprietors  complained  that  they 
always  lived  in  fear  of  federal  raids,  of  holdups  by  gangsters,  and  of 
padlocking  and  the  total  loss  of  their  investment.  Moreover,  landlords 
charged  double  rents  for  fear  of  padlocking,  while  business  in  the 
speak-easy  itself  was  casual  and  uncertain.  Too  many  policemen  and 
their  friends  did  not  pay  and  drank  up  the  profits.  The  proprietors 
disliked  the  social  ostracism  of  the  speak-easy  owner  and  his  family, 
and  resented  the  loss  of  their  high-class  patrons  to  the  increasing 
competition  of  large  and  small  bootleggers,  who  delivered  liquor  at 
the  homes  of  the  wealthy  without  risk  to  them.  All  in  all,  the  proprie- 
tors thought  that  the  speak-easy  was  far  inferior  to  the  legal  saloon.87 

Perhaps  the  worst  effect  of  the  speak-easies  was  indirect.  The  vol- 
ume of  complaints  about  their  open  operation  resulted  in  spectacular 
raids  on  all  the  best  restaurants  in  New  York.  As  the  president  of  the 
Anti-Saloon  League  exulted  in  1924: 

Ask  the  big  hotels  and  restaurants  which  laughed  at  the  law, 
whether  enforcement  is  a  fizzle.  Then  hear  the  doleful  chorus.  Let 
the  Paradise  restaurant  on  58th  Street,  New  York,  sing  bass;  let  Shan- 
ley's,  Murray's,  and  the  Little  Club  sing  tenor;  let  Cushman's  and  the 
Monte  Carlo  sing  alto;  let  Delmonico's  sing  soprano,  and  the  words  of 
the  music  are  "We  have  been  padlocked,  padlocked,  padlocked/'  The 
famous  Knickerbocker  Grill  sings  "Amen,  padlocked,  amen  and 

Although  these  raids  were  no  more  successful  in  putting  down  public 
drinking  in  New  York  than  an  attempt  to  dry  up  the  Hudson  River 
with  a  sponge,  they  did  serve  the  purpose  of  closing  most  of  the 
places  where  good  food  could  be  bought.  Fine  cooking  was  not 
provided  in  the  speak-easies  until  the  last  years  of  the  "experiment, 
noble  in  motive/' 


The  costs  of  running  a  speak-easy  in  New  York  were  estimated  by 
one  proprietor  at  $1370  a  month.  This  included  $400  of  protection 
money  to  law-enforcement  agencies,  such  as  the  Prohibition  Bureau, 
the  Police  Department,  and  the  district  attorneys.  The  "lowly  cop" 
collected  another  $40  each  time  that  beer  was  delivered.  A  blackmail 
system  of  anonymous  complaints  might  net  the  police  a  further  in- 
come. Occasional  raids  were  made  for  law-enforcement  records  —  al- 
though the  fines  of  the  courts  were  remitted  by  a  temporary  decrease 
in  the  necessary  protection  money  paid  to  the  police.39  Altogether, 
with  the  costs  involved,  the  speak-easy  could  not  survive  the  de- 
pression as  an  economic  unit. 

The  speak-easy  did  not  survive  the  depression  as  an  economic  unit. 
It  shared  the  same  fate  that  overtook  the  saloon.  There  were  too  many 
sources  of  drink  chasing  too  few  drinkers.  Many  of  the  regular  speak- 
easies closed  for  lack  of  middle-class  customers.  Their  place  was  taken 
by  degenerate  institutions,  hole-in-the-corner  bars,  cordial  shops, 
hooch  stands  in  the  streets  which  sold  spiked  fruit  juice,  and  hordes 
of  desperate  amateur  bootleggers  competing  for  the  remaining  trade. 
It  was  cheaper  to  drink  in  the  house,  either  home-brew  or  bootleg 
liquor  brought  to  the  door.  There  were  myriads  of  makers  and  sellers 
of  liquor  among  the  jobless  and  hungry,  who  bypassed  the  speak-easy 
and  supplied  liquor  direct  to  the  customer.  Judge  commented  that 
there  was  not  a  saloon  on  every  corner  now,  but  there  were  a  couple 
of  apple  sellers.40  There  were  also  a  couple  of  peddlers  of  home-brew*- 

The  speak-easy  was  primarily  for  the  middle  classes.  Prohibition 
gave  the  possession  and  consumption  of  alcohol  in  public  all  the 
glamour  of  social  prestige.  Scott  Fitzgerald  brings  out  in  The  Beautiful 
and  Damned  how  the  carrying  of  liquor  was  almost  a  badge  of  re- 
spectability. And  even  worse,  the  display  of  drunkenness  became  more 
than  a  mark  "of  the  superior  status  of  those  who  are  able  to  afford 
the  indulgence."41  It  became  the  very  uniform  of  valor  rather  than 
folly.  Although  a  drunken  Chinaman  at  any  time  is  thought  guilty  of 
a  bad  solecism,  a  drunken  American  under  prohibition  was  considered 
the  champion  of  liberty  against  tyrannical  government  A  visit  to  a 
cocktail  party  or  a  speak-easy  became  a  sign  of  emancipation,  a  Purple 
Heart  of  individuality  in  a  cowardly  and  conforming  world.  Perhaps 
one  of  the  greatest  crimes  of  prohibition  against  the  middle  classes  was 
to  make  public  drunkenness  a  virtue,  signifying  manliness,  rather  than 
a  vice,  signifying  stupidity. 

Public' drinking  became  so  fashionable  that  both  decent  and  in- 
decent women  went  to  the  speak-easy,  even  though  the  old-time 
saloon  had  been  a  male  preserve,  only  spotted  by  the  occasional 
prostitute.  For  women,  too,  liquor  became  a  flag  of  their  new  freedom. 

Bzown  Brothers  Photographers 


Although  not  many  women  copied  the  heroines  of  John  O'Hara  in 
calculating  the  distances  in  New  York  by  the  taxi  fares  between  speak- 
easies, there  were  enough  of  them  to  set  a  standard  of  defiance  for  a 
whole  sex.  Like  Michael  Arlen's  girl  with  the  blind  blue  eyes,  they 
were  bored  with  boredom,  and  sought  entertainment  in  the  risky 
security  of  caf&  and  clubs.  Once  the  old  religious  restraints  against 
alcohol  were  dissolved  and  the  social  stigma  against  liquor  was  re- 
versed to  bless  it,  once  laws  like  the  New  Orleans  law  banning  females 
from  saloons  had  become  dead  letters,  then  women  took  to  drink 
and  speak-easies  in  large  numbers.  As  Heywood  Broun  complained, 
however  bad  the  old  saloons  were,  at  least  the  male  drinker  did  not 
have  to  fight  his  way  through  crowds  of  schoolgirls  to  the  bar.  Women 
remained,  nevertheless,  more  sober  as  a  sex  than  men.* 
The  drinking  places  of  the  poor,  on  the  other  hand,  were  worse  than 

*  In  1946,  while  only  one-quarter  of  American  men  were  abstainers,  nearly  one- 
half  of  American  women  were.  Moreover,  three  times  as  many  men  as  women  were 
regular  drinkers. 


the  vilest  saloon  had  been,  and  during  the  depression  were  even  more 
numerous.  They  served  liquor  which  could  blind,  paralyze,  and  kill. 
Once  the  saloon  was  gone,  the  laborer  who  wanted  a  drink  was  thrown 
onto  the  tender  mercies  of  suspicious  home-brew,  drugstore  concoc- 
tions, and  alley-joint  alcohol  that  might  make  him  dead  before  he  was 
drunk.  The  testimony  of  the  labor  leaders  and  investigators  before  the 
Wickersham  Commission  is  nearly  unanimous  on  this  point.  Working- 
men  switched  from  beer  to  hard  and  bad  liquor  under  prohibition,  and 
resented  the  fact  that  they  were  forced  to  do  so.  "The  discussion  of 
prohibition  and  its  clever  and  cute  violation  is  the  general  topic  of 
conversation  among  workers/'  A  workingman  "has  to  buy  a  drunk  to 
get  a  drink  ...  he  buys  a  half  pint  of  liquor  and  he  is  afraid  he  is 
going  to  lose  it,  or  be  arrested  or  it  will  leak  out  of  his  pocket  and  he 
drinks  it  all  at  one  drink."42  One  slug  of  the  white  mule  current  in  the 
slums  made  a  man  crazy.  And  the  majority  sentiment  among  the  work- 
ingmen  had  shifted.  By  the  time  of  the  Wickersham  Report,  union 
leaders  put  the  number  of  their  men  who  opposed  the  Volstead  Act 
at  more  than  nine  out  of  ten,  compared  with  some  six  out  of  ten  in 
1920.  As  among  the  wealthy,  the  drinker  was  now  praised  rather  than 
condemned.  The  treasurer  of  the  Plumbers*  and  Steamfitters*  Union 
commented  that  in  his  social  set  before  prohibition,  "if  a  young  man 
had  a  smell  on  him  he  was  ostracized  completely.  Today,  in  the  same 
social  set,  if  he  comes  in  lit  up  like  a  cathedral  they  want  to  know  if 
he  has  something  on  his  hip/'43 

For  the  abolition  of  the  saloon  created  the  "peripatetic  bar,"  the 
hip  flask,  along  with  the  illegal  bar,  the  speak-easy.  Restaurant  pro- 
prietors so  much  expected  their  guests  to  bring  their  alcohol  along 
with  them  that  highball  glasses  filled  with  ice  cubes  were  automatic- 
ally put  on  dining  tables.  Ginger  ale  was  served  with  a  spoon  in  the 
tumbler  even  though  the  label  on  the  bottle  stated  that  the  ginger  ale 
was  not  to  be  used  with  alcoholic  beverages.  A  spokesman  of  the 
American  Hotel  Association  testified  that  corkscrews  and  bottle  open- 
ers had  to  be  left  in  every  room  to  save  the  hotel  furniture.  According 
to  him,  this  was  the  only  relief  from  the  disasters  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  which  hotel  keepers  enjoyed.44 

Moreover,  although  the  saloon  was  destroyed  in  order  to  preserve 
the  home,  the  home  "turned  like  a  rattle  snake  an*  desthroyed  th* 
saloon  —  th'  home  an*  th'  home  brew."  According  to  Mr.  Dooley,  even 
if  the  old  customers  of  the  saloon  did  stay  in  their  houses  during  prohi- 
bition, their  families  saw  little  of  them.  They  were  down  in  the  cellars 
stewing  hops.  And  if  there  was  less  drunkenness  under  the  Volstead 
Act,  what  there  was,  was  "a  much  more  finished  product/'45  The  effect 
of  taking  away  the  serpent  from  outside  the  family  circle  was  to  loose 

236   /THE    DRY    TREE 

him  within.  Many  people  who  had  been  abstainers  for  fear  of  the 
rowdy  saloon  became  drinkers  within  the  sociable  and  respectable 
home.  In  rich  houses,  the  ubiquitous  cocktail  shaker,  imported  with 
its  contents  from  the  West  Indies,  set  an  example  of  law  defiance 
which  parents  could  not  blame  children  for  using  against  themselves. 
In  poor  houses,  the  evils  of  making  liquor  were  worse.  There  is  a 
poignant  testimony  of  a  Croatian  small  merchant  in  1927  about  condi- 
tions in  the  slum  areas  of  Cleveland: 

Now  wine  and  whisky  sold  in  homes.  No  good  for  woman  to  stay 
and  sell  liquor  to  mens  all  day.  They  get  drunk  and  say  bad  things 
before  children  and  she  forget  husband  and  children.  Saloons  was 
better;  no  children  could  go  there  and  no  women.  Men  who  got 
drunk  before  prohibition  get  drunk  now,  but  it  costs  them  more.  We 
want  to  have  wine  to  drink,  but  dare  not  buy  it  for  fear  of  being 
raided.  Men  used  to  go  to  a  saloon  maybe  once  a  week  and  get  a 
drink.  Now  go  one  or  two  months  without  a  drink.  Then  meet  a 
friend,  go  to  private  home,  take  one  drink,  then  two,  then  another 
because  they  know  it  will  be  long  before  they  can  have  more,  and 
end  by  spending  their  whole  pay  and  then  getting  very  sick.46 

Prohibition  did  turn  many  poor  homes  into  the  worst  type  of  blind 
pigs,  without  even  the  space  and  exclusion  once  afforded  there.  Al- 
though the  prohibitionists  said  that  only  aliens  and  foreigners  made 
liquor  in  their  own  homes,  they  were  wrong.  Many  wealthy  Americans 
mixed  their  own  gin  for  the  hell  of  it,  even  when  they  could  afford  the 
prices  of  a  good  bootlegger.  The  spice  of  sin  had  come  back  into  liquor 
for  those  who  were  too  sophisticated  to  believe  in  the  bogy  of  the 
demon  rum,  which  the  drys  waved  in  the  faces  of  the  rest  of  the 
country.  Also,  the  license  to  drink  too  fast  and  too  much  had  been 
given  to  those  who  merely  wanted  to  drink. 

Edmund  Wilson  noted  in  1927  how  the  vocabulary  of  drinking  was 
changed  by  the  abolition  of  the  saloon.  He  remarked  upon  the  dis- 
appearance of  various  terms;  people  no  longer  went  on  "sprees,  toots, 
tears,  jags,  brannigans  or  benders/'  But  Wilson's  possible  reason  for 
the  disappearance  of  these  words  was  the  fact  that  this  fierce  pro- 
tracted drinking  had  now  become  universal,  "an  accepted  feature  of 
social  life  instead  of  a  disreputable  escapade/'  He  then  made  a  partial 
list  of  155  words  and  phrases  signifying  drunkenness  in  common  use 
during  prohibition.  A  selection  from  Wilson's  list  rolls  out  like  a  hymn 
of  praise  to  the  virtues  of  bootleg  gin.  On  such  a  drink  a  man  might 
become  blind,  blotto,  bloated,  buried,  canned,  cock-eyed,  crocked, 
embalmed,  fried,  high,  lit,  loaded,  lushed,  oiled,  organized,  ossified, 
owled,  paralyzed,  pickled,  piffed,  pie-eyed,  plastered,  potted,  polluted, 


scrooched,  shicker,  sloppy,  soused,  spifflicated,  squiffy,  stewed,  stiff, 
stinko,  wapsed  down,  woozy,  or  zozzled.47 

Prohibition  revived  the  American  frontier  addiction  to  gulping  down 
spirits,  which  the  German  immigrant  brewers  had  threatened  to  drown 
with  floods  of  ale.  Heywood  Broun  called  the  Volstead  Act  a  bill  to 
discourage  the  drinking  of  good  beer  in  favor  of  indifferent  gin.  Al- 
though New  Jersey  through  tradition  and  Illinois  through  the  organ- 
izational efficiency  of  Al  Capone  remained  beer  areas,  wine  and  spirits 
became  the  habitual  drink  of  the  rest  of  America.  This  change  was 
really  a  matter  of  self-help  economics  and  communications.  Reason- 
able home-brewed  beer  was  harder  to  make  than  fermented  grape 
juice  or  a  passable  gin,  which  could  serve  as  a  base  for  cocktails.  Beer 
was  more  expensive  to  buy  from  a  bootlegger  than  spirits  were,  if  the 
only  consideration  of  the  consumer  was  to  obtain  the  maximum  quan- 
tity of  beverage  alcohol.  Moreover,  beer  was  too  bulky  and  dangerous 
to  transport  for  long  distances;  thus  its  addicts  were  forced  to  move 
to  a  district  such  as  Hoboken,  where  the  breweries  were  openly  oper- 
ating at  full  flood.  A  careful  estimate  of  the  amount  of  liquor  drunk 
during  the  periods  from  1911  to  1914  and  from  1927  to  1930  concluded 
that,  under  national  prohibition,  beer  consumption  had  declined  by 
seven-tenths,  while  wine  consumption  had  increased  by  two-thirds  and 
spirits  by  about  one-tenth.  Three-quarters  of  the  wine  was  manu- 
factured at  home,  but  only  half  of  the  beer  and  one-quarter  of  the 
spirits.48  Thus  the  chief  function  of  the  bootlegger  and  the  speak-easy 
was  to  supply  spirits  to  the  consumer,  while  the  job  of  the  head  of  the 
drinking  home  was  to  make  wine  or  beer. 

Prohibition  popularized  a  drink  that  had  only  been  served  in  the 
smartest  of  the  saloons.  While  a  habitu<§  of  the  old  Waldorf  bar  might 
list  some  three  hundred  varieties  of  cocktail  which  had  been  served 
there  before  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  the  average  saloon  served 
only  straight  drinks,  since  the  swallowing  of  diluted  or  mixed  liquors 
was  considered  effeminate.  Indeed,  the  usual  apology  of  the  gin  drinker 
in  a  low  saloon  was  that  he  was  drinking  the  weak  stuff  for  the  health 
of  his  and  his  wife's  kidneys.49  But  prohibition  popularized  the  cock- 
tail to  an  extraordinary  degree.  Perhaps  drinks  were  mixed  and  their 
taste  disguised  because  the  basic  alcohol  in  the  cocktail  was  so  foul 
upon  the  palate,  somewhat  as  curry  was  first  used  to  disguise  the 
stink  of  rotten  meat.  Perhaps  the  cocktail  fulfilled  a  basic  American 
need,  to  get  drunk  in  as  short  a  time  as  possible.  Perhaps  it  was  a  test 
of  skill  on  the  part  of  the  server,  a  sort  of  guessing  game  in  which  the 
subtlety  of  the  blend  militated  against  the  identification  of  the  ingredi- 
ents. Or  perhaps  the  cocktail  was  really  an  eccentric  expression  of 
Puritanism,  essentially  a  mixture  of  the  incongruous  and  the  incompat- 

238   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

ible,  something  intended  to  numb  rather  than  stimulate,  to  do  harm 
rather  than  please  the  taste.50 


IF  TOE  closing  of  the  saloons  changed  the  quality  and  type  of  liquor 
that  Americans  drank,  it  also  changed  the  quality  and  type  of  the 
drinkers.  While  writing  about  the  New  Morality  in  1927,  George  Jean 
Nathan  noted  one  revolutionary  fact.  The  American  middle  class  had 
become  the  richest  middle  class  in  the  world.  Thus,  they  had  the 
money  and  leisure  to  imitate  upper-class  behavior  as  soon  as  the 
fashion  was  set.  Although  Nathan  was  referring  to  the  middle  classes 
of  the  larger  cities,  he  pointed  out  that  the  whole  middle  class  would 
follow  suit  in  due  time,  "as  the  hinterland,  however  independent  of  the 
cities  it  may  be  politically  and  alcoholically,  is  ever  a  vassal  to  the 
cities'  dictate  and  prejudice  in  the  matter  of  everything  from  radio 
music  and  moving  pictures  to  store  clothes  and  the  philosophy  of 
prophylactic  sprays/'61  Although  Nathan  discounted  the  influence  of 
the  wet  cities  on  the  hinterland,  it  fell  victim  also  to  their  bibulous 

It  was  the  rapid  spread  of  the  drinking  habits  of  rich  Americans  to 
the  leisured  middle  classes  and  the  young  after  the  Great  War  that 
made  prohibition  a  mockery.  Even  the  class  structure  of  the  small 
towns  was  assailed  eventually  by  the  identification  of  the  dominant 
middle  class  with  the  social  and  free  habits  of  the  wealthy.  Novels, 
films,  the  radio,  magazines,  newspapers,  all  propagated  the  creed  that 
drinking  was  considered  to  be  smart  in  the  best  society.  A  long  tradi- 
tion of  snobbery  and  conviviality  backed  this  assertion,  while  a  short 
tradition  of  temperance  and  self-restraint  supported  the  drys.  In  addi- 
tion, the  very  psychology  of  prosperity  was  responsible  for  a  general 
relaxation  and  pursuit  of  pleasure.  The  effort  of  the  drys  to  use  the 
old  American  hatred  of  the  rich  as  a  weapon  for  prohibition  was  use- 
less in  a  society  where  the  new  rich  were  the  new  gods.  The  time  had 
not  yet  come  when,  as  Scott  Fitzgerald  noticed  in  1933,  the  rich  could 
only  be  happy  alone  together.52  It  was  a  time  when  nearly  everybody 
wanted  to  be  in  the  company  of  the  rich  and  happy. 

Babbitt,  when  he  was  served  a  whisky  toddy  by  the  aristocratic 
banker,  of  Zenith,  was  taken  aback.  Since  prohibition,  he  had  not 
known  anyone  to  be  casual  about  drinking.  "It  was  extraordinary 
merely  to  sip  his  toddy  and  not  cry,  'Oh,  maaaaan,  this  hits  me  right 
where  I  live/"58  The  diffusion  of  the  insouciant  attitude  of  the  rich 
first  to  the  young,  who  were  ready  for  anything  that  smacked  of  ele- 
gant bravado,  and  then  to  their  respectable  parents  sounded  the  knell 


of  the  drys.  For  the  prohibitionists  depended  on  middle-class  support. 
Once  the  middle  class  began  to  disobey  flagrantly  the  law  which  had 
been  passed  for  their  protection  against  the  drunken  worker  and 
millionaire  liquor  trader,  the  drys  had  little  support  left.  For  the 
working  classes,  as  a  whole,  rightly  regarded  the  practice  of  prohibi- 
tion as  a  piece  of  class  legislation,  which  deprived  them  of  their  beer 
while  allowing  other  classes  full  freedom  of  the  cocktail  shaker.  A 
social  worker  who  asked  a  chauffeur  in  California  if  Santa  Barbara 
was  dry  received  a  true  answer:  "That  depends  upon  whether  you  sit 
inside  or  outside  the  limousine/'54  The  rich  rarely  supported  prohibi- 
tion for  themselves,  although  they  thought  it  a  good  thing  for  workers 
and  Negroes.  Another  social  worker  commented  sourly  that  he  had 
been  asked  time  and  again  to  sit  on  committees  to  consider  the  sin  of 
the  Bowery,  but  that  he  had  yet  to  be  asked  to  sit  on  a  committee  to 
consider  the  sin  of  Fifth  Avenue.  "If  we  must  have  laws  to  regulate  the 
poor,  in  God's  name  let  us  have  curbs  to  restrain  the  rich!"55  Senator 
Brookhart,  of  Iowa,  sneered  that  it  was  the  wealthy  "Wall  Street 
gang/'  who  denounced  everybody  as  a  Bolshevik  that  stood  for  eco- 
nomic equality  with  labor  and  the  common  people.56 

But  those  who  drank  during  prohibition  did  so  for  reasons  of  tradi- 
tion and  temperament  as  much  as  for  reasons  of  social  class.  The 
regular  drinkers  of  the  time  came  from  those  groups  of  people  who 
considered  drinking  a  necessary  part  of  entertaining,  from  the  drunk- 
ards and  the  Bohemian  set,  and  from  the  first  and  second  generation 
of  European  immigrants.  These  people  formed  sections  of  the  upper, 
middle,  and  lower  classes.  And  there  was,  in  addition,  the  age  group 
of  the  young,  which  drank  out  of  daredeviltry  and  imitation.57  It  was 
this  last  group  that  publicized  the  shortcomings  and  inefficiency  of 
law  enforcement  and  caused  many  of  the  scandals  of  the  age. 

Reports  of  drinking  among  young  people  during  prohibition  were 
legion  and  contradictory.  But  the  truth  is  that  children  and  young 
people  copy  their  parents  more  than  they  react  against  them.  The 
detailed  studies  recently  made  of  the  drinking  habits  of  high-school 
students  have  revealed  one  common  factor,  that  the  children  of  drink- 
ers usually  drink  and  the  children  of  abstainers  usually  abstain.58 
Habit  is  the  hang-over  of  succeeding  generations.  Thus  the  frequency 
of  drinking  among  the  young  during  prohibition  was  a  reflection  of 
the  manners  of  their  parents;  and  if  they  drank  spirits  rather  than 
beer,  it  was  because  spirits  were  more  available.  In  face  of  the  wide- 
spread contempt  for  the  Volstead  Act,  the  young  saw  no  reason  why 
they  alone  should  obey  the  law.  But  the  fact  that  the  young  did  drink 
and  get  drunk  was  infinitely  shocking  to  a  generation  of  parents  who 
had  never  had  to  deal  with  the  problem  of  drunk  adolescents.  The 

240  /  THE    DRY    TREE 

very  failure  of  law  enforcement  in  the  twenties  was  paralleled  by  a 
simultaneous  failure  of  parental  authority.  Fathers  could  no  longer 
use  the  whip  of  economics  to  keep  their  children  in  line  when  boom 
jobs  made  it  easy  for  young  people  to  leave  home.  It  is  depression 
which  keeps  the  family  together. 

Wherever  a  man  rose  to  say  that  prohibition  was  ruining  the  morals 
of  the  young,  a  dry  spokesman  quoted  the  authority  of  a  hundred 
selected  schoolteachers  to  deny  the  charge.  When  the  report  of  the 
Federal  Council  of  Churches  mentioned  alarming  conditions  in  col- 
leges due  to  the  automobile  and  the  hip  flask,  Wayne  B.  Wheeler 
immediately  countered  by  saying  that  even  if  drinking  was  prevalent 
among  youth,  it  was  occasional,  not  regular,  drinking.  "The  cost  and 
quality  of  post-Volsteadian  drinks  does  not  create  a  habit  as  did  the 
licensed  intoxicants.  The  American  youth  problem  is  less  serious  than 
that  in  other  countries/'69  This  argument  of  the  drys,  that  matters  were 
worse  elsewhere  and  would  be  worse  in  America  if  there  were  no 
prohibition,  was  irrefutable,  as  was  their  argument  that  speak-easies 
were  better  than  revived  saloons.  Until  repeal  came,  no  one  could  tell 
whether  conditions  for  all  would  improve  with  legal  liquor  or  with- 
out. Meanwhile,  the  drys  claimed  all  the  triumphs  of  the  boom  as  a 
proof  of  the  benefits  of  prohibition  to  the  nation. 

The  psychology  of  prosperity  was  both  the  strength  and  weakness 
of  the  drys.  A  national  attitude  of  laisser-aller  made  it  impossible  both 
for  the  drys  to  enforce  the  law  and  for  the  wets  to  repeal  it.  In  Ring 
Lardner's  words,  prohibition  was  one  better  than  no  liquor.  The  rich 
and  the  middle  classes  had  enough  clubs  and  speak-easies  to  find  the 
"institutionalized  spontaneity'*  which  they  wanted  without  agitating 
for  repeal.6'*  The  poor  had  little  power  in  the  matter,  and  were 
occupied  in  becoming  richer.  With  the  whole  nation  echoing  Guizot's 
cry,  "Enrichtesez-vous,"  neither  reform  nor  the  repeal  of  reform 
seemed  important.  When  the  gilded  bubble  burst  and  the  market 
crashed  and  the  bread  lines  grew  and  riches  were  a  mark  of  betrayal 
and  shame,  then  was  the  time  to  right  wrongs.  The  rich  men  who 
drank  in  the  depression  were  refugees  rather  than  leaders.  For  the 
young,  it  was  more  important  to  work  than  to  drink.  The  moral  radical- 
ism of  the  young  was  replaced  by  an  economic  radicalism.61  And  pro- 
hibition was  replaced  by  repeal. 

Drinking  is  primarily  an  economic  matter.  Men  drink  liquor  when 
they  can  afford  it.  Mr.  Dooley  put  prohibition  in  perspective.  He 

*  George  Jean  Nathan  noted  in  1927  that  prohibition  could  be  got  rid  of  with  a 
hundred  mfflion  dollars;  but  he  also  noted  that,  unfortunately  or  otherwise,  the 
hundred  million  dollars  was  in  the  pants  of  men  who  knew  of  prohibition  only  by 


noticed  that  when  liquor  is  "hard  to  get  an'  costly  th'  poor  won't  have 
so  much  iv  it,  an'  what  they'll  have  will  be  worse  f'r  thim.  But  it's 
makin'  sad  inroads  on  th'  rich."62  Even  after  repeal,  it  was  still  the  rich 
and  the  educated  who  drank  more  than  the  poor  and  the  ignorant.63 
For  they  had  more  opportunity  to  drink.  The  drys  were  right  when 
they  said  that  the  abolition  of  the  saloon  would  remove  temptation 
from  workingmen.  But  they  were  wrong  in  thinking  that  the  rich  and 
the  middle  classes  would  stop  drinking  out  of  a  sense  of  fair  play  and 
responsibility.  They  had  lost  the  500,000  "opinion-makers"  who  had 
made  possible  the  dry  law. 

Paternalism  is  not  a  popular  doctrine  in  a  democracy.  The  abolition 
of  the  saloon  did  discriminate  against  the  working  classes,  for  it  was 
the  middle  classes  that  patronized  the  speak-easy.  The  drys  were  put 
in  the  position  of  appearing  to  support  one  law  for  the  rich  and  an- 
other for  the  poor.  Their  appeals  to  the  rich  to  observe  the  laws  which 
protected  their  privileges  brought  little  response.  In  fact,  prohibition 
spread  the  habit  of  drinking  among  the  Haves  while  partially  depriv- 
ing the  Have-nots  of  one  of  their  few  pleasures. 

If  the  workingman  is  considered  as  an  economic  unit,  prohibition 
helped  him.  But  he  also  demands  to  be  considered  as  a  man.  The 
saloon  thought  him  so,  as  did  the  church  for  its  believers.  But  when 
the  church  rose  up  against  the  saloon  and  destroyed  it  in  the  name  of 
giving  the  poor  richer  lives,  it  condemned  the  workingman  to  an 
existence  bare  of  refuges  from  the  consciousness  of  his  inequalities. 
Yet  the  propaganda  of  the  drys  continued  to  trumpet  that  prohibition 
had  made  for  the  workingman  an  existence  full  of  increased  wealth 
and  its  possibilities. 



Dry  Defense 

Prohibition  is  the  nation's  greatest  Santa  Glaus. 


I  don't  believe  in  Santa  Glaus. 

ANONYMOUS  CHILD,  with  probable  wet  tendencies 

THE  COMING  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  of  the  Volstead 
Act  reversed  the  positions  of  wets  and  drys.  The  drys  were  no  longer 
the  attackers,  but  the  defenders.  All  the  crimes  which  were  once 
attributed  to  the  saloon  were  now  fastened  upon  the  speak-easy.  More- 
over, the  new  tone  of  business  solidity  and  respectability  of  the  wets 
made  their  propaganda  more  convincing.  The  reports  of  an  organiza- 
tion such  as  the  Association  Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment, 
whose  103  directors  served  on  the  boards  of  businesses,  with  2,000,000 
employees  and  assets  of  $40,000,000,000,  could  not  be  dismissed  as  mere 
propaganda.1  These  reports  had  all  the  weight  of  sound  business  be- 
hind them.  Besides,  the  new  pressure  groups  of  the  wets  were,  for  the 
first  time,  not  connected  with  the  liquor  trade.  They  were  groups  of 
wealthy  private  citizens  who  disliked  national  prohibition.2  Thus  their 
sayings  seemed  free  from  the  taint  of  self-interest. 

The  exchange  of  propaganda  between  the  drys  and  the  wets  during 
the  twenties  was  incredible.  In  1928,  a  visitor  declared,  "If  there  is  less 
liquor  consumed  in  the  United  States  than  elsewhere,  in  no  country 
does  liquor  fill  so  large  a  place  in  the  thought  and  talk  of  the  average 
citizen."3  The  drys  had  successfully  cast  their  spell  over  the  minds  of 
everybody.  Other  social  reforms  died  for  lack  of  interest.  The  social 
legislation  of  the  twenties  is  a  ghastly  lacuna  between  progressive  and 
New  Deal  measures.  People  had  little  time  for  improving  the  distribu- 
tion of  wealth,  pursuing  corruption,  curbing  Big  Business,  or  making 
democracy  possible  in  an  age  of  mass  voting.  They  talked  only  of 
prohibition,  until  the  monstrous  delusion  of  the  reform  hung  like  a 
miasma  over  the  mind  of  the  nation. 


DRY    DEFENSE  /   243 

The  propaganda  of  wets  and  drys  was  extreme  and  calculated  to 
deceive.  It  made  the  people  disgusted  with  "do-gooders/'  The  harm  of 
prohibition  was  less  in  its  immediate  effects  on  those  who  wished  to 
drink,  for  these  effects  were  small.  It  lay  in  the  weariness  and  cynicism 
with  which  the  nation  began  to  look  at  all  reforms  and  reformers.  The 
excesses  of  the  drys  damned  all  other  would-be  changers  of  society 
and  its  habits.  As  a  critic  observed  in  1930,  at  the  end  of  a  decade  of 
boom  and  bonanza  and  social  sloth: 

The  liquor  controversy  is  a  conflict  between  two  hardened  and  self- 
contained  dogmatic  systems.  The  official  Dry  position  differs  from  the 
official  Wet  position  on  questions  of  organic  chemistry,  dietetics,  phar- 
macy, biology,  religion,  psychology,  jurisprudence  and  political  philos- 
ophy, as  well  as  on  the  interpretation  of  statistics  on  economic  condi- 
tions. The  rivalry  between  these  two  systems,  each  of  which  is  seeking 
with  evangelical  zeal  to  indoctrinate  the  people,  now  threatens  to 
paralyze  our  most  promising  political  enterprises  and  to  handicap  with 
the  dead  weight  of  popular  indifference  the  most  necessary  movements 
of  social  reform.4 

Not  until  the  reformers  had  got  rid  of  the  problem  of  prohibition  could 
they  concentrate  on  other  urgent  social  problems  of  the  time. 


THE  FIRST  argument  of  the  drys  was  based  upon  their  history.  They 
pointed  to  the  three  prohibition  waves  which  had  arisen  in  the  United 
States.  Although  the  first  two  waves  had  receded,  the  third  wave  had 
swept  onwards,  state  by  state,  until  there  were  twenty-seven  prohibi- 
tion states  by  the  time  of  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  in 
Congress  and  thirty-three  by  the  time  that  the  Volstead  Act  came  into 
force.5  And,  once  die  Eighteenth  Amendment  bound  the  whole  nation, 
prohibition  had  reached  a  final  point  of  no  return. 

The  wets  agreed  with  this  argument,  except  for  its  last  deduction. 
They  said  that  if  the  history  of  temperance  reform  in  America  were 
truly  cyclical,  then  the  third  wave  would  recede  as  had  the  first  two. 
An  interesting  article  claimed  to  show  that  every  boom  and  slump  in 
American  history  had  changed  the  popular  attitude  towards  liquor.6 
The  wets  accused  the  drys  of  insisting  upon  a  constitutional  amend- 
ment for  this  very  reason,  as  a  method  of  coercing  the  nation  into  pro- 
hibition indefinitely  even  when  the  people  might  react  against  their 
dry  masters. 

The  drys  countered  by  saying  that  a  constitutional  amendment  was 
necessary  to  make  the  criminal  elements  among  the  wets  respect  the 
law  of  prohibition.  Moreover,  it  showed  that  prohibition  had  come  to 

244   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

stay.  No  constitutional  amendment  had  ever  been  repealed  in  the 
whole  history  of  the  United  States.  What  was  done  was  done,  and 
could  not  be  undone.  Those  Americans  who  did  not  like  prohibition 
must  lump  it  and  obey  it,  for  it  was  written  into  the  holy  document  of 
the  United  States  which  all  Americans  were  sworn  to  uphold.  The  wets 
answered  in  their  turn  that  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  differed  from 
all  other  parts  of  the  Constitution.  It  was  a  piece  of  sumptuary  legisla- 
tion which  had  no  right  to  be  there  and  which  conflicted  with  other 
rights  guaranteed  by  the  Constitution.  Veneration  for  a  document  was 
no  adequate  substitute  for  a  physical  appetite.7  And  no  amount  of 
propaganda  could  make  it  so. 

The  reply  of  the  drys  was  to  urge  obedience  to  the  Constitution, 
whole  and  indivisible.  "There  is  only  one  Constitution  and  no  part  of 
that  Constitution  is  less  sacred  than  any  other  part.'*8  No  other  amend- 
ment had  received  so  many  votes  from  states  or  state  legislatures.  Only 
ten  out  of  thirteen  states  had  ratified  the  first  eleven  constitutional 
amendments;  the  others  had  failed  to  be  ratified  by  at  least  four  and  at 
most  twelve  of  the  states.  The  Eighteenth  Amendment  had  been  rati- 
fied by  the  legislatures  of  all  the  states  except  two,  which  made  it  the 
most  popular  amendment  in  the  Constitution.  Against  this,  the  wets 
declared  that  the  method  of  ratification,  although  legal,  was  not  di- 
rectly democratic.  The  legislatures  of  the  nation  were  packed  in  favor 
of  the  rural  areas.  A  national  referendum  would  have  brought  out  a 
majority  against  prohibition,  especially  since  women  did  not  yet  have 
the  vote  in  all  states.  The  Eighteenth  Amendment  was  a  modern  Blue 
Law,  foisted  on  the  unwilling  American  people. 

The  drys  denied  this.  They  pointed  out  that,  of  the  twenty-seven 
states  which  had  adopted  some  form  of  state-wide  prohibition  before 
the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  seventeen  had  done  so  by 
referendum,  and  in  only  seven  of  these  referendums  had  women  had 
the  vote.  Moreover,  by  1917,  more  than  four-fifths  of  the  area  and 
nearly  two-thirds  of  the  population  of  the  United  States  lived  under 
one  dry  law  or  another.  National  prohibition  was  merely  the  expres- 
sion of  the  will  of  the  majority.  The  minority  wets  should  obey  the 
democratic  decision.  If  they  did  not,  "It  spells  Bolshevism  and  Bolshe- 
vism spells  nationalization  of  the  women  of  our  country  and  that  spells 
hell  and  damnation."9  Even  the  judicious  William  Howard  Taft  sup- 
ported this  point  of  view,  saying  that  those  who  put  their  personal 
liberty  above  their  duty  to  the  Constitution  were  guilty  of  "practical 

The  wets  said  that  this  view  was  nonsense.  If  any  people  were 
Bolsheviks  and  Socialists,  the  diys  were.  National  prohibition  had 
confiscated  without  compensation  property  worth  billions  of  dollars, 

DRY    DEFENSE/  245 

and  had  put  a  federal  force  of  secret  police  over  the  land.  The  very 
law  of  prohibition  was  an  attack  on  individual  freedom.  "To  under- 
mine the  foundations  of  Liberty  is  to  open  the  way  to  Socialism/'11  In 
addition,  although  much  of  the  area  of  the  United  States  was  indeed 
dry  in  1917,  it  was  "little  but  area"  and  not  as  dry  as  the  Volstead  Act 
wished  to  make  the  whole  of  America.12  If  the  total  of  those  who  had 
voted  against  state-wide  prohibition  amendments  had  been  added  to 
those  who  lived  in  the  wet  cities  and  to  the  soldiers  away  in  France,  a 
large  majority  would  have  been  produced  against  the  Eighteenth 

The  truth  of  the  matter  lay  on  both  sides.  If  there  was  a  long  tradi- 
tion of  temperance  work  in  America,  there  was  a  longer  tradition 
of  drinking.  Although  the  liquor  trade  was  an  evil,  the  answer  to 
its  evils  was  not  total  prohibition  but  government  regulation.  The  Con- 
stitution was  certainly  no  place  to  write  a  law  such  as  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment;  but,  on  the  other  hand,  there  was  little  hope  of  drinkers 
and  bootleggers  making  an  effort  to  obey  such  a  law  unless  it  was  in 
the  Constitution.  Moreover,  a  long  series  of  precedents  in  the  states 
had  made  traditional  the  placing  of  such  laws  in  constitutions.  And  the 
very  fact  that  the  most  rabid  wet  considered  repeal  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  impossible  as  late  as  1931  did,  perhaps,  make  for  more 
law  observance  among  those  who  were  not  prepared  "to  barter  their 
Constitution  for  a  cocktail/'13  There  was  certainly  no  question  that  the 
amendment  had  been  legally  passed,  although  it  is  true  that  it  was 
passed  in  a  time  of  militancy  and  exaggerated  patriotism,  under  a  form 
of  moral  and  political  blackmail  which  made  cool  thought  difficult  for 
legislators.  If  prohibition  was  put  over  on  the  country,  it  was  done  so 
with  all  due  formality. 

The  second  line  of  propaganda  of  the  drys  was  based  on  their  idea 
of  civilization.  According  to  them,  freedom  was  a  positive  concept. 
There  was  no  question  of  a  man  being  free  to  drink  liquor.  It  was  only 
when  the  liquor  slave  was  free  from  his  craving  that  he  was  free  to  act 
like  a  man  and  fulfill  the  better  part  of  his  nature.  "Freedom  from  the 
narcotic  force  of  alcohol  permits  one  to  function  more,  to  enjoy  more, 
to  be  more  than  he  otherwise  could  be."14  It  was  only  with  prohibition 
that  every  child  and  woman  could  be  given  the  opportunity  for  the  life 
of  liberty  which  was  the  American  dream.  "For  it  is  wholly  impossible 
for  the  drinker,  moderate  or  excessive,  to  keep  the  unfortunate  conse- 
quences of  alcohol  to  himself."15  The  drinker  must  deny  himself  for 
the  sake  of  his  own  good  and  the  good  of  others.  "The  immorality  of 
the  'real  temperance'  drinker  lies  in  the  fact  that,  for  the  sake  of  a  sen- 
sual gratification,  he  injures  his  body  and  imperils  his  soul."16  In  the 
interests  of  society,  citizens  must  be  prepared  to  give  up  their  vices. 

246   /  THE    DRY    THEE 

"Personal  liberty  ends  where  public  injury  begins.  There  is  a  higher 
personal  liberty,  and  that  is  civil  liberty."17 

The  wets  countered  by  saying  that  if  personal  liberty  meant  any- 
thing, it  meant  freedom  to  drink.  They  said  that  there  was  such  a  man 
as  the  moderate  drinker.  Many  men,  after  working  all  day,  had  the  right 
to  drink  their  glass  or  two  of  beer  or  wine.  Alcohol  was  a  depressant 
which  aided  the  digestion  and  relieved  the  tensions  of  the  day.  It  was 
a  substance  used  freely  in  all  societies  at  all  times.  Moreover,  although 
men  might  be  better  machines  if  they  did  not  touch  alcohol,  not  all 
men  wanted  to  be  machines.  They  wanted  to  be  men,  and  men  wanted 
the  opportunity  to  relax  in  peace.  Human  efficiency  was  a  great  thing; 
but  there  was  a  greater,  human  happiness.18  If,  in  Huxley's  words, 
civilization  was  a  conspiracy  against  nature,  then  alcohol  was  the 
policeman  trailing  the  conspirator.19 

The  technological  revolution  of  the  times  provided  the  drys  with 
both  a  theory  and  a  seeming  proof.  Their  theory  was  that  increased 
industrial  and  mechanical  demands  on  the  worker  made  drink  posi- 
tively dangerous  for  him.  The  quick  tempo  of  modern  life  necessarily 
meant  the  elimination  of  those  agents  which  slowed  men  down,  such  as 
beverage  alcohol.  The  proof  of  the  efficacy  of  prohibition  lay  in  the 
huge  increase  in  productivity.  The  destined  march  of  America  onwards 
and  upwards  demanded  the  sacrifice  of  the  selfish  few  who  put  their 
gullets  before  their  country. 

The  hoarse  cry  for  license  and  anarchy,  under  the  guise  of  so-called 
personal  liberty,  is  merely  the  demand  of  the  modern  bureaucrat 
against  the  institutions  of  democracy.  It  represents  the  attitude  of  the 
modern  road  hog  toward  others  who  travel  the  highway  of  liberty 
protected  by  government  It  is  the  cry  of  the  moral  and  social  savage 
against  the  advance  of  civilization.20 

The  fact  that  prohibition  was  a  democratic  law  passed  in  a  free  society 
damned  its  opponents  as  both  bureaucrats  and  savages  at  the  same  mo- 

The  wets  denied  that  prohibition  had  anything  to  do  with  increased 
productivity.  Technological  change  had  brought  about  its  own  im- 
provement No  causal  connection  could  be  proved  between  prohibition 
and  economic  growth.  Moreover,  the  demands  of  the  machine  age 
made  the  relaxation  of  strong  drink  still  more  necessary  to  the  worker. 
Indeed,  the  inefficiency  of  prohibition  enforcement  increased  the  dan- 
ger of  industrial  accidents,  for  beer  was  harder  to  get  than  bad  hard 
liquor.  Workers  who  drank  light  wines  and  beer  before  prohibition  had 
switched  to  "a  much  heavier  beer  and  wine  and  mixtures  which  they 
call  homemade  whisky,  mule,  hootch,  rattlesnake."21  And  there  was 

DRY    DEFENSE  /  247 

a  widespread  feeling,  true  or  false,  that  national  prohibition  was  not  a 
democratic  law.  In  the  words  of  an  Indianapolis  labor  leader,  "We  did 
not  get  prohibition  from  the  people  as  a  whole.  We  really  got  it  from 
a  hand-picked  jury."22 

The  drys,  in  their  turn,  said  that  those  who  drank  bootleg  liquor  un- 
der prohibition  were  a  small  minority  whose  doings  were  much  exag- 
gerated by  the  press.  Furthermore,  that  small  minority  was  composed 
of  people  who  had  no  reason  to  feel  proud  of  themselves.  Those  who 
drank  bootleg  liquor  to  be  social  or  smart  were  guilty  of  snobbery  and 
of  setting  a  bad  example.  Those  who  were  old  soaks  and  liquor  addicts 
would  die;  their  number  would  not  be  renewed  from  among  the  young. 
Even  those  young  people  who  drank  did  so  out  of  mere  bravado, 
which  maturity  would  cure.  The  only  other  types  of  drinkers  were  the 
aristocrats,  who  wrongly  thought  themselves  above  the  law,  the  for- 
eigners, who  should  become  Americanized,  and  the  members  of  the 
illegal  liquor  trade,  who  should  be  in  jail.  This  "Dreibund  of  Defiance" 
was  doomed  to  failure.28  However  bad  things  were  under  prohibition, 
they  had  been  worse  under  the  saloons.  Bootleg  liquor  was  prevalent 
and  poisonous  before  the  Volstead  Act.  Prohibition  had  made  better 
the  bad,  even  if  it  had  not  eliminated  the  liquor  evil.  As  General  Evan- 
geline  Booth  said  in  1930,  "The  wettest  of  wet  areas  is  less  wet  to-day 
than  it  was  when  the  saloon,  usually  accompanied  by  the  speak-easy, 
were  wide  open."24 

The  wets  repeated  ad  nauseam  that  conditions  were  worse  under 
prohibition.  And  certainly  the  newspapers  made  it  seem  so.  According 
to  their  testimony  and  the  testimony  of  the  trade  union  leaders  before 
the  Wickersham  Commission,  a  greater  number  of  young  people  and 
women  drank  under  prohibition,  and  the  same  number  of  men.  Not 
only  were  there  more  speak-easies  by  1930  than  there  had  been  sa- 
loons, but  liquor  had  come  into  every  workingman's  home.  An  official 
of  the  metal  trades  reported  that  "every  molder's  wife  seemed  to  take 
as  much  pride  in  the  home  brew  as  she  formerly  did  in  her  cooking." 
Other  labor  officials  and  observers  confirmed  his  judgment.  Strong 
drink  could  be  found  in  nearly  all  homes  and  hotels,  and  people  drank 
more  of  it  "Almost  invariably  when  a  bottle  is  put  on  the  table  nobody 
leaves  until  there  is  nothing  left  but  the  glass."  And  every  year  wet 
sentiment  was  growing  in  face  of  the  universal  contempt  for  the  dry 
law.  "The  children  are  growing  up  and  as  they  are  making  more  athe- 
ists in  Russia  they  are  making  more  antiprohibitionists  in  the  United 
States  every  day."25 

Again,  both  drys  and  wets  told  the  half  truth,  the  half  truth,  and 
nothing  but  the  half  truth.  While  it  is  necessary  for  civilized  men  to 
accept  certain  restraints  on  their  behavior,  even  restraints  against 

248   /THE    DRY    TREE 

making  themselves  too  drunk  too  often,  it  is  not  necessary  for  the 
progress  of  civilization  that  all  men  should  give  up  drinking  alcohol. 
Equally,  while  the  efficient  prohibition  of  liquor  would  bring  about 
economic  benefits  and  increased  productivity,  it  is  true  that,  in  West- 
ern democracies,  society  is  thought  to  be  made  for  man  and  not  man 
for  society.  The  insistence  of  the  drys  that  the  drinker  must  sacrifice 
his  drink  for  the  sake  of  the  community  was  as  extreme  as  the  wet  in- 
sistence that  the  drys  must  put  up  with  the  debauchery  and  corruption 
of  the  saloons  for  the  sake  of  liberty.  And,  as  for  the  prevalence  of 
drinking  under  prohibition,  no  final  answer  can  ever  be  given.  Where  a 
traffic  is  illegal,  it  cannot  be  regulated  or  counted.  Authorities  were 
quoted  eternally  on  both  sides  to  prove  opposite  cases.  Statistics  were 
collected  and  invented  to  demonstrate  contradictory  evidence.  But 
nothing  was  finally  shown  false  or  true,  although  certain  reasonable 
estimates  were  made  just  before  repeal.  As  Mr.  Dooley  said,  "Do  I 
think  pro-hybition  is  makin'  pro-gress?  Me  boy,  I'm  no  stasticyan.  I  hope 
to  die  without  havin'  that  to  do  pinance  Fr  that."26 

The  drys  also  made  more  lavish  claims.  Before  prohibition  was  ac- 
tually put  to  the  test,  its  effects  were  hoped  to  exceed  credulity  and 
approach  paradise.  In  the  hyperboles  of  Billy  Sunday,  "The  reign  of 
tears  is  over.  The  slums  will  soon  be  only  a  memory.  We  will  turn  our 
prisons  into  factories  and  our  jails  into  storehouses  and  corncribs.  Men 
will  walk  upright  now,  women  will  smile,  and  the  children  will  laugh. 
Hell  will  be  forever  for  rent/'27  Roy  Haynes,  the  Prohibition  Commis- 
sioner, claimed  in  1923  that  prohibition  was  the  "most  dominating  and 
determining  force"  in  "waning  drunkenness,  vice,  and  crime;  emptying 
hospitals,  asylums,  and  jails;  rapidly  accumulating  savings,  overflowing 
schools,  sturdier,  happier  children,  better,  more  prosperous  homes, 
increasing  and  more  wholesome  recreation,  healthier  social  life,  and  in- 
creased fruits  of  human  labor/'  And  Haynes  found  even  more  dry  bene- 
fits than  these  in  the  flaming  twenties,  including  "the  sensational  re- 
ductions in  the  death  rate,  the  increase  in  longevity,  the  elimination  of 
the  brothel,  the  rapid  disappearance  of  crimes  against  chastity,"  and 
"the  startling  decrease  in  major  crimes/'28  It  was  unfortunate  that 
Haynes  seemed  to  see  more  what  he  wished  to  see  than  things  as  they 

£••  The  wets  pointed  to  the  true  facts  of  the  increased  crime  and  im- 
morality of  the  twenties,  and  exaggerated  them.  With  the  zeal  of 
muckrakers  in  a  continent  of  garbage,  they  raked  up  and  turned  over 
a  steaming  mess  of  corruption  and  crime  in  politics  and  business.  They 
aped  the  methods  of  the  drys  in  attributing  the  whole  rotten,  stinking 
heap  to  the  sole  cause  of  prohibition.  Every  drunkard,  every  racketeer, 
and  every  bribed  judge  or  policeman  was  the  consequence  of  the  un- 

DRY    DEFENSE   /  249 

holy  Volstead  Act.  National  prohibition  became  the  wet  scapegoat  for 
the  sins  of  the  United  States,  as  the  saloon  had  been  the  whipping 
boy  of  the  drys. 

But  the  chief  quarrel  of  the  wet  and  the  dry  propagandists  was  over 
the  great  god  of  boom  times,  business,  and  its  connection  with  prohibi- 
tion. To  tibe  drys,  the  prosperity  of  the  twenties  in  America  was  the 
living  proof  of  the  good  of  their  reform.  They  held  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment  to  be  the  main  factor  during  the  decade  in  the  tripling  of 
building  and  loan  assets,  in  the  doubling  of  pupils  in  educational  insti- 
tutions, in  the  increase  of  wages  by  just  under  one-half,  in  the  sale  of 
more  than  twenty  million  automobiles,  in  the  rise  in  consumption  of 
food  and  dairy  products  and  fruit,  and  in  the  general  benefits  of  the 

A  judicious  article  called  'Things  Are  in  the  Saddle"  summed  up  the 
dry  reasons  for  the  over-all  economic  virtue  of  prohibition.  "Drink  cuts 
down  general  consumptive  power.  Drink  takes  from  the  nation's  ability 
to  use  up  goods;  drink  takes  from  a  man's  efficiency  to  consume;  drink 
lessens  the  desire  for  things.  Drink,  to  be  sure,  limits  its  own  consump- 
tion; when  it  has  its  man  under  the  table,  that  is  the  end;  there  is  a 
limit  to  the  amount  a  man  can  drink/'  But  what  was  intolerable  was 
that  drink  made  inroads  into  the  consumption  of  luxuries.  The  pleasure 
of  drink  took  the  place  of  the  pleasure  in  things.  The  more  things  men 
had,  the  more  they  needed;  but  the  more  drink  men  had,  the  less 
things  they  needed.  Therefore,  the  gain  of  prohibition  was  clear.  'There 
are  more  law-breakers  in  the  nation  because  of  prohibition.  But  be- 
cause of  prohibition  there  are  both  more  consumers  and  better  con- 
sumers."29 In  all,  the  dry  economists  estimated  that  at  least  fifteen  bil- 
lion dollars  had  been  diverted  in  the  twenties  from  the  buying  of  drink 
to  the  buying  of  goods,  which  was  "the  actual  cause"  of  America's 
"wonderful  prosperity."80  This  saving  represented  a  net  gain,  in  the 
much-quoted  estimate  of  the  British  economist  Sir  Josiah  Stamp,  of 
between  8  and  15  per  cent  of  the  gross  national  product  of  an  indus- 
trial society,  such  as  the  United  States  or  Great  Britain.31 

Prohibition,  according  to  the  drys,  had  become  necessary  for  the 
very  continuance  of  boom  times.  Another  dry  article,  "Prohibition  as 
Seen  by  a  Business  Man,"  pointed  out  that  families  were  able  to  pay 
their  current  bills  and  meet  their  installments  only  because  the  liquor 
bill  was  gone.  The  huge  increase  of  the  installment  system  in  the  twen- 
ties meant  that  business  would  collapse  if  drink  again  competed  with 
goods  for  the  wages  of  the  workers.  "Any  credit  man  knows  that  a 
sober  man  is  a  better  risk  than  a  drinker.  A  sober  man,  too,  will  want 
things  the  drinker  will  not  demand.  A  nation  has  to  walk  very  steady  to 
carry  the  lofty  structure  of  general  credit  it  has  erected.  It  would  not 

250   /THE    DRY    TREE 

take  much  drink  to  bring  that  whole  structure  down  in  ruins."32  It  was 
unfortunate  for  the  drys  that  the  whole  structure  did  come  down  in 
ruins  in  1929,  while  the  nation  was  still  enjoying  all  the  theoretical 
economic  benefits  of  prohibition.  In  fact,  by  1931,  the  drys  were  claim- 
ing that  prohibition  had  prevented  the  depression  from  being  a  catas- 
trophe. "Our  present  effort  to  control  John  Barleycorn  has  provided  a 
cushioning  of  vast  proportions  against  the  impact  of  current  unemploy- 

The  wets  considered  that  the  claims  of  the  drys  were  so  much  hot 
air.  First,  there  was  no  connection  between  prohibition  and  prosperity. 
The  boom  of  the  twenties  had  taken  place  in  the  large  cities,  where 
liquor  flowed  continually  and  enforcement  of  the  dry  law  was  a  farce. 
The  country  areas,  where  prohibition  was  a  reality,  suffered  from  de- 
clining income  throughout  the  twenties.  Moreover,  prohibition  itself 
was  the  most  trivial  of  all  the  causes  of  the  boom.  The  increased  pro- 
ductivity of  America,  as  the  Hoover  report  on  Recent  Economic 
Changes  showed,  was  due  to  the  increased  use  of  power,  improved  ma- 
chinery, mass  production,  personnel  management,  and  industrial  re- 
search84  Even  statistics  contradicted  the  claims  of  the  drys.  If  the 
average  income  of  Americans  was  adjusted  to  the  cost-of -living  index, 
the  total  rose  from  $480  a  year  in  1900  to  $620  in  1919  during  the  pe- 
riod of  the  saloons,  while  the  rate  of  increase  remained  constant  under 
prohibition  to  a  total  of  $681  in  1929.  The  same  was  true  of  savings 
deposits;  the  increase  between  1910  and  1919  averaged  about  7  per 
cent  a  year,  the  same  rate  as  in  the  twenties.  In  fact,  the  boom  had  be- 
gun under  legal  liquor  and  had  continued  despite  prohibition.  The 
rising  sales  of  new  goods  were  due  to  the  phenomenal  advance  in  ad- 
vertising and  in  new  consumer  needs,  rather  than  to  the  money  saved 
from  liquor  sales.  Indeed,  die  wets  said  that  there  had  been  no  money 
saved  on  liquor  sales,  except  during  the  first  three  years  of  prohibition. 
By  1929,  the  amount  spent  on  bootleg  liquor  was  equal  to  the  buying 
power  of  the  amount  spent  in  1914  on  legal  liquor.  The  only  difference 
was  that  slightly  less  liquor  was  drunk  in  1929  at  a  greater  cost.85 

A  fair  estimate  of  the  economics  of  prohibition  put  the  consumption 
of  beverage  alcohol  in  the  period  between  1927  and  1930  at  two-thirds 
of  the  consumption  between  1911  and  1914.  The  amount  of  money 
spent  on  bootleg  liquor  in  this  period,  however,  was  between  four  and 
five  billion  dollars  a  year,  exactly  equivalent  to  the  amount  which 
would  have  been  spent  if  legal  liquor  had  been  sold  at  the  volume  of 
the  period  between  1911  and  1914  and  had  been  taxed  at  the  wartime 
rate  of  1917.  Although  the  national  liquor  bill  had  been  reduced  by 
about  two  billion  dollars  a  year  during  the  first  three  years  of  prohibi- 
tion, it  had  settled  at  its  old  level  by  the  end  of  the  twenties.  Prohibi- 

DRY    DEFENSE  /  251 

tion  had  not  been  a  significant  factor  in  the  purchase  of  automobiles, 
consumer  goods,  or  homes.  Even  the  rise  in  the  consumption  of  food 
and  dairy  products  was  partially  due  to  increased  knowledge  about 
human  health.  Prohibition  was  a  minor  factor  in  the  rise  of  industrial 
productivity,  while  the  decentralized  bootleg  trade,  which  employed 
more  people  than  the  old  liquor  industry,  wasted  a  great  deal  of  pro- 
ductive resources  and  labor.  The  only  real  gainers  from  prohibition 
were  the  workingmen  of  America.  They  did  drink  half  the  amount 
which  they  had  before,  and  probably  spent  a  billion  dollars  a  year  less 
on  liquor.  On  the  other  hand,  the  business  and  salaried  classes  drank 
the  same  amount  as  they  had  before  prohibition,  and  annually  spent  a 
billion  dollars  more  on  liquor,  as  prices  were  higher.86  After  all  the 
fuss  and  bother,  prohibition  made  for  small  change. 

The  economic  claims  and  statistics  of  wets  and  drys  were  as  multi- 
tudinous as  they  were  inaccurate.  Their  volume  was  only  exceeded  by 
their  lack  of  worth.  They  surpassed  fantasy  and  approached  divine  in- 
spiration. Yet,  at  two  important  times,  these  claims  and  statistics  were 
believed.  The  first  time  was  in  the  few  years  before  the  passage  of  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment.  The  second  time  was  in  the  few  years  before 
repeal.  During  the  first  time,  the  drys  were  credited;  during  the  sec- 
ond, the  wets.  The  despicable  exaggerations  of  the  prohibitionists 
were  imitated  by  their  foes.  The  excited  condition  of  the  American 
people  during  the  First  World  War  made  them  relinquish  their  com- 
mon sense  for  long  enough  to  heed  those  dry  voices,  who  promised 
them  the  millennium  in  terms  of  numbers  and  figures  and  dollars  if  the 
nation  would  only  go  dry.  Equally,  the  fearful  temper  of  America  in 
the  depression  led  most  of  the  nation  to  believe  in  the  ridiculous  reme- 
dies of  the  wet  "beer-for-taxes"  crusade,  which  turned  the  repeal 
movement  from  "fine  moral  soil  to  the  arid  ground  of  economics,  pre- 
cisely where  the  Prohibitionists  had  planted  their  ignoble  banner."37 



Masters  of  Inaction 

I  am  not  a  prohibitionist,  Mr.  President,  and  never  have 
pretended  to  be.  I  do  claim  to  be  a  temperance  man.  I  do 
not  approach  this  question  from  a  moral  viewpoint,  because 
I  am  unable  to  see  it  as  a  great  moral  question. 


Never  go  out  to  meet  trouble.  If  you  will  just  sit  still,  nine 
cases  out  of  ten  someone  will  intercept  it  before  it  reaches 


THE  DRYS  were  not  fortunate  in  the  two  men  who  were  in  the 
White  House  for  the  first  eight  years  of  national  prohibition.  It  was 
a  period  of  Republican  ascendancy,  a  time  when  the  nominees  of  the 
Grand  Old  Party  were  insignificant  men  whose  inability  or  inaction 
gave  free  rein  to  the  forces  of  Big  Business.  Warren  Harding  was  a 
small-town  newspaper  editor  from  Ohio,  Calvin  Coolidge  a  limited 
lawyer  from  Vermont.  Neither  had  the  wish  or  the  capacity  to  enforce 
the  dry  law  by  a  strong  show  of  federal  power.  Although  the  heads 
of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  acquired  much  influence  in  Washington 
through  their  close  contact  with  these  men,  the  lack  of  leadership  from 
the  White  House  meant  a  lack  of  leadership  in  the  nation.  Who  would 
obey  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  under  a  President  who  drank  whisky 
regularly?  Who  would  exert  himself  to  enforce  the  Volstead  Act  under 
another  President,  whose  idea  of  good  government  was  economy,  and 
whose  way  of  dealing  with  trouble  was  to  ignore  it? 


WILLIAM  ALLEN  WHITE  called  Harding  a  he-harlot.1  Alice  Roosevelt 
Longworth  called  him  just  a  slob.2  Mencken,  with  prophetic  sarcasm, 
called  him  a  numskull  and  an  oil  refinery.3  Yet  they  all  recognized 
that  he  was  a  lovable  and  generous  man.  When  he  died  suddenly  in 



1923  as  he  was  returning  from  Alaska,  some  three  million  people 
gathered  by  the  railroad  tracks  to  see  his  body  brought  back  to  the 
East.  He  had  declared  that  if  he  could  not  be  the  best  President  of  the 
United  States,  he  would  like  to  be  the  best-loved.  His  timely  death 
made  him  briefly  so.  He  was  more  mourned  immediately  than  any 
save  Abraham  Lincoln. 

If,  within  five  years,  his  name  was  only  mentioned  to  be  sneered 
at  and  forgotten,  if  Calvin  Coolidge  was  too  embarrassed  to  deliver  a 
funeral  oration  at  his  memorial  and  Herbert  Hoover  had  to  attack  his 
old  Cabinet  colleagues  in  his  eulogy  at  the  final  burial,  the  fault  was 
not  Harding's.  For  his  virtues  were  his  vices.  He  was  too  faithful  to 
his  friends,  too  trusting  of  the  untrustworthy,  too  easy  with  the  hard. 
He  shook  hands  with  problems  and  was  surprised  that  they  were  still 
impolite.  He  smiled  at  difficulties  and  was  wounded  by  their  perma- 
nent scowl.  When  he  was  worried  over  a  tax  bill,  he  complained  to  his 
secretary  Jud  Welliver  that  there  must  be  a  man  who  knew  the  an- 
swer, though  Harding  didn't  know  his  whereabouts,  and  that  there 
must  be  a  book  which  solved  the  matter,  though  Harding  couldn't 
read  it  if  there  was.4  His  answer  to  Charles  W.  Forbes's  peculations  in 
the  Veterans'  Bureau  was  to  try  personally  to  choke  him;  he  did  not 
appoint  a  commission  to  investigate  him.5 

Harding  died  from  the  stabbings  of  his  friends,  like  a  small-town 
Julius  Caesar.  And  his  ordinary  likabilities  were  sufficient  to  be  an 
Anthony  and  bring  the  crowds  weeping  about  his  corpse.  The  collec- 
tion of  121  obituary  editorials  called  He  Was  "Just  Folks,"  which  came 
out  in  the  year  of  his  death,  showed  the  grief  felt  by  small  men  at  the 
end  of  a  small  man  made  great.  Some  of  the  titles  of  the  editorials 
were:  "An  Ideal  American,"  "The  Greatest  Commoner  Since  Lincoln," 
"A  Man  of  the  People,"  "His  Opportunity  Is  Every  Boy's,"  and  "He 
LivesI  He  Lives!"6  The  normal  never  dies. 

Harding  treated  prohibition  during  the  course  of  his  political  career 
with  the  same  sloppy  amiability  and  smiling  lack  of  moral  judgment 
with  which  he  treated  all  his  acquaintances.  As  a  boy  in  Marion,  Ohio, 
he  had  drunk  and  gambled  and  played  pool  with  the  rest  of  the  town 
boys,  and  had  "pursued  the  casual  lecheries  of  the  unattached."7  He 
bought  a  defunct  newspaper,  the  Marion  Star,  and  began  to  build  up 
its  circulation  by  putting  out  the  correct  and  corrupt  state  Republican 
line,  which  included  support  of  the  drink  interests  and  ridicule  of  the 
prohibitionists.  He  was  married  to  a  domineering  woman  five  years  his 
senior,  whose  first  husband  had  left  her  and  had  died  of  drink.  Flor- 
ence Kling  Harding  believed  in  her  own  destiny  and  forced  her  hus- 
band into  a  fate  that  he  did  not  intend.  She  made  Warren  Harding  a 
financial  success  and  a  well-known  political  figure,  aided  by  Harry  M. 

254   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

Daugherty,  who  had  decided  that  a  man  who  looked  like  a  President 
should  become  one. 

Harding  was  elected  to  the  state  senate  in  1901,  with  the  blessing 
and  backing  of  the  notorious  George  B.  Cox  machine,  from  its  saloon- 
based  headquarters  in  Cincinnati.  There  he  was  duly  liked  and  duly 
dutiful.  The  only  time  he  is  known  to  have  been  against  the  party  line 
was  over  a  bill  supported  by  the  wets  and  the  Republicans  to  extend 
the  area  of  local  option.  On  this  occasion,  the  public  galleries  were 
full  of  the  cohorts  of  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union.  They 
had  threatened  to  swing  the  next  election  against  anyone  who  dared 
favor  the  bill.  Warren  Harding,  never  a  man  to  resist  the  appeal  of 
women,  voted  dry.  If  he  drank  himself  and  owned  brewery  stock,  he 
had  been  advised  often  enough  by  Harry  Daugherty  to  keep  in  with 
the  prohibitionists.  The  Republican  machine  might  and  did  overlook 
his  one  act  of  disobedience,  while  the  Ohio  Anti-Saloon  League,  the 
most  powerful  in  the  country,  was  often  too  militantly  Christian  to  for- 
give its  enemies. 

When  Harding  ran  for  the  office  of  Governor  in  1910  against  the 
progressive  Democrat  Judson  Harmon,  he  emulated  his  opponent's 
straddle  on  liquor,  if  not  his  victory.  Both  candidates  favored  enforcing 
the  law  and  putting  prohibition  in  its  proper  place.  Harding  said  ob- 

The  temperance  question  is  legislative  rather  than  executive,  and 
is  not  to  transcend  all  other  important  issues  in  this  campaign.  My 
legislative  record  is  written  in  the  journals  of  two  general  assemblies. 
I  couldn't  change  that  record  if  I  would.  I  stand  for  enforcement  of 
the  law  and  would  not  be  worthy  of  your  suffrages  if  I  did  not.8 

The  Ohio  drys,  distrusting  both  candidates,  did  not  influence  the 
election  overmuch;  but  when  Harding  ran  for  the  Senate  in  1914,  the 
drys  supported  him.  One  of  their  favorite  candidates,  Frank  B.  Willis, 
was  running  on  the  same  ticket  for  Governor.  Harding  had  their  sup- 
port both  in  his  defeat  of  the  slippery  ex-Senator  Foraker  in  the  Re- 
publican primaries  and  in  his  victorious  campaign,  since  he  was  run- 
ning against  a  Roman  Catholic.  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  went  so  far  as  to 
issue  a  statement  approving  of  Harding's  ownership  of  brewery  stock 
as  a  method  of  accepting  payment  for  beer  advertisements  in  the 
Marion  Star.9  Moreover,  the  Cincinnati  wets  came  out  for  Harding,  as 
they  were  disgruntled  with  the  "wet"  Democratic  Governor  of  Ohio, 
James  M.  Cox,  who  had  actually  closed  the  saloons  on  Sundays.  With 
both  extremes  behind  him,  wets  and  drys,  opposed  only  by  the  pro- 
gressives and  traditional  Democrats,  Harding  won  easily  by  nearly 
75,000  votes.  He  was  sent  to  drink  whisky  and  play  poker,  to  make 


many  friends  and  influence  few,  in  the  most  exclusive  club  in  the 
world  in  Washington. 

Harding  spent  the  six  happiest  years  of  his  life  in  the  Senate,  in  a 
hail  of  respectable  fellows  well  met.10  He  served  on  many  committees, 
since  he  was  known  to  know  little  about  their  work  and  to  support  the 
opinions  of  their  senior  members.  He  served  on  the  committees  for 
Naval  Affairs,  Public  Health  and  National  Quarantine,  Standard 
Weights  and  Measures,  Commerce,  Claims,  Expenditures  in  the  Treas- 
ury Department,  Foreign  Relations,  Territories,  the  Pacific  Islands,  the 
Philippines,  Puerto  Rico,  and  the  Virgin  Islands.  His  attendance  at 
these  committees  was  little  better  than  his  voting  record,  which  was  in- 
frequent. Out  of  thirty-two  calls  on  the  matter  of  prohibition,  he  voted 
wet  thirty  times,  mostly  opposing  unimportant  prohibition  riders  to 
other  measures.  And  yet  the  Anti-Saloon  League  backed  him.  For  he 
stated  to  them  charmingly  that  he  believed  in  doing  what  the  people 
told  him  to  do;  he  would  vote  on  prohibition  as  his  state  voted.  Thus, 
when  the  Anti-Saloon  League  dried  up  Ohio,  they  would  also  dry  up 
Ohio's  mouthpiece,  Senator  Harding. 

In  fact,  Harding  voted  to  submit  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  to  the 
states  before  Ohio  had  voted  for  constitutional  prohibition.  It  was  a 
nice  and  exactly  calculated  evasion  of  responsibility.  In  1916,  most  of 
the  wet  Senators  who  sought  re-election  had  lost  their  seats.  In  1917, 
the  third  attempt  to  dry  up  Ohio  was  defeated  by  just  over  a  thousand 
votes  out  of  a  total  of  one  million;  at  each  attempt,  the  drys  had  cut 
the  majority  against  them  and  were  bound  to  be  successful  in  1918. 
Harding  acted  as  the  go-between  of  wet  Senators  and  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  in  the  negotiations  for  the  time  limit  of  seven  years  given  for 
ratification  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment.  But  when  the  vital  votes  on 
the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the  Volstead  Act  veto  were  counted, 
Harding's  vote  was  cast  on  the  dry  and  winning  side. 

In  the  1920  Republican  convention,  oil  men  and  the  senatorial  soviet 
pulled  the  wires,  not  the  advocates  of  abstinence.  The  Committee  of 
the  National  Temperance  Council  did  send  a  letter  to  urge  a  strong 
plank  in  favor  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment;  but  the  framers  of  the 
party  platform  were  too  canny  to  say  anything  on  the  subject.  Hard- 
ing's  unsuitable  nomination  was  fixed  by  the  Old  Guard  of  the  Senate 
in  a  smoke-filled  room  as  forecast  by  Harry  Daugherty.  The  prospec- 
tive candidate  communed  with  himself  for  ten  minutes  and,  ignoring 
the  fact  of  his  illegitimate  child  and  the  rumors  of  his  Negro  blood, 
announced  that  there  were  no  obstacles  to  his  running  for  President. 
The  convention  agreed  with  the  choice  of  their  leaders.  The  man  who 
would  win  the  election  needed  to  be  the  antithesis  of  the  academic, 
strong,  idealistic  Wilson.  The  country  further  concurred.  And  what 

256   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

had  been  a  conspiracy  by  a  powerful  cabal  to  foist  an  inadequate  fig- 
urehead on  their  party  became  a  popular  victory  of  huge  proportions. 
A  landslide  majority  of  some  seven  million  votes  showed  that  after  a 
time  of  war,  restrictions,  foreign  commitments,  and  introspection,  the 
country  was  for  peace,  plenty,  isolation,  and  no  questions.  As  Senator 
Johnson,  of  California,  said  correctly,  "Rum  was  not  the  issue  of  this 


Harding  conducted  most  of  his  campaign  from  his  front  porch  at 
Marion.  The  party  leaders  sent  him  out  to  speak  as  little  as  possible, 
since  they  were  afraid  of  his  affable  indiscretions.  His  polysyllabic  and 
meaningless  prose  suitably  spread  an  impenetrable  miasma  around  his 
views  on  the  League  of  Nations  and  prohibition  and  everything  else. 
His  later  speeches  reminded  Mencken  of  a  string  of  wet  sponges,  tat- 
tered washing  on  the  line,  stale  bean-soup,  college  yells,  and  dogs 
barking  idiotically  through  endless  nights.  They  were  so  bad  that  a 
sort  of  grandeur  crept  into  them.12  While  the  election  headquarters  at 
Marion  flowed  with  all  sorts  of  liquor,  Harding  showed  his  handsome 
face  and  mouthed  superfluities  about  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  that 
it  was  impossible  to  ignore  the  Constitution  and  unthinkable  to  evade 
the  law. 

Harding  was  opposed  in  the  election  by  the  Democratic  candidate 
James  M.  Cox.  Cox  also  came  from  Ohio,  where  he  had  been  three 
times  Governor.  He  was  not  liked  by  the  leaders  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
League,  who  had  bitterly  opposed  him  in  many  state  campaigns.  At 
the  Democratic  convention,  copies  of  Cox's  wet  record  in  Ohio  were 
circulated  among  the  delegates  by  William  Jennings  Bryan  in  an  effort 
to  block  Cox's  nomination  in  favor  of  that  of  the  dry  A.  Mitchell 
Palmer  or  William  Gibbs  McAdoo.  Two  officials  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  warned  the  Democrats  against  nominating  a  wet  candidate: 
William  H.  Anderson  said  that  Harding  would  be  beaten  if  the  Demo- 
crats nominated  a  dry,  and  "Pussyfoot"  Johnson  declared  that  any 
wet  seeker  after  the  White  House  would  have  as  much  chance  of  be- 
ing elected  as  a  "tallow-legged  cat  in  hell/'18  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  him- 
self wrote  to  Bryan,  telling  him  that  Cox  "must  be  defeated  if  there  is 
any  way  possible  to  do  it/'14 

Cox  was  nominated,  however,  with  the  support  of  the  wets  and 
Tammany  and  the  business  interests.  The  Anti-Saloon  League  refused 
to  support  either  candidate  officially,  although  their  support  went  in 
secret  to  Warren  Harding.  Although  both  candidates  came  out  for  en- 
forcement of  the  dry  law,  the  League  had  previously  supported  Hard- 
ing in  Ohio  and  had  opposed  Cox.  Moreover,  the  leaders  of  the  League 
thought  that  they  could  exert  more  pressure  on  the  malleable  Harding 

MASTERS    OF    INACTION  /   257 

in  Washington  than  they  could  on  the  efficient  Cox.  Thus  Clarence 
True  Wilson  came  out  with  the  statement  that  Harding  was  90  per 
cent  dry,  while  Cox  was  accused  of  being  the  candidate  of  the  wets.15 
It  was  useless  for  Cox  to  denounce  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  as  the  tool  of 
the  Republican  party;  for  his  own  party  in  Ohio  and  the  North  was 
associated  with  the  wet  city  machines.16  The  campaign  was  slanderous 
and  unpleasant  in  general.  Rumors  circulated  that  Harding  was  a 
Negro,  while  Cox  was  accused  of  heavy  drinking  and  of  secret  sym- 
pathies with  Rome.17  Nevertheless,  Harding's  victory  was  assured,  for 
it  was  a  Republican  year. 

Once  Harding  was  installed  in  the  White  House,  he  found  himself 
incompetent,  overworked,  and  in  jail.  He  discovered  that  he  had  to 
make  up  his  own  mind  since  the  best  minds  of  his  party  disagreed.  He 
was  hounded  for  his  drinking  habits  and  his  inefficiencies  by  Wheeler 
and  members  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  who  had  only  supported  his 
weak  candidacy  because  he  was  weak  while  they  were  strong.  They 
treated  him  in  Washington  as  they  had  done  in  Ohio,  as  a  ninny  to  be 
bullied  and  cajoled  and  led.  Through  their  power  in  the  President's 
home  state  and  through  the  appointment  of  a  Buckeye  Prohibition 
Commissioner,  Roy  A.  Haynes,  Wheeler  and  the  League  transferred 
their  influence  within  a  state  to  influence  over  a  nation. 

But  other  and  more  dangerous  men  from  Ohio  followed  Harding  to 
Washington.  These  were  his  personal  friends,  who  became  the  Ohio 
Gang.  He  needed  their  poker  games  and  highballs  and  backslapping 
joviality  to  escape  from  the  rigors  of  the  unknown  into  the  relaxation 
of  the  known.  He  was  unhappy  without  his  cronies.  He  thought  per- 
sonal acquaintanceship  more  sure  a  basis  for  trust  than  past  record  or 
party  loyalty.  Thus,  physically  and  mentally  unfit  for  his  own  high 
office,  he  gave  his  friends  high  offices  too.  Washington  received  the 
doubtful  benefit  of  the  most  efficient  gang  of  looters  ever  to  gut  the 
capital  city  since  the  days  of  General  Grant. 

In  fairness  to  Warren  Harding,  he  knew  little  of  the  extortions  of  his 
friends.  He  knew  them  only  as  charming  boon  companions.  Alice 
Roosevelt  Longworth's  description  of  the  scene  in  the  study  at  the 
White  House  above  the  official  reception  on  the  main  floor  was  all  that 
Harding  wanted  and  expected  of  his  chosen  circle. 

No  rumor  could  have  exceeded  the  reality;  the  study  was  filled 
with  cronies,  Daugherty,  Jess  Smith,  Alec  Moore,  and  others,  the  air 
heavy  with  tobacco  smoke,  trays  with  bottles  containing  every  imagi- 
nable brand  of  whisky  stood  about,  cards  and  poker  chips  ready  at 
hand  —  a  general  atmosphere  of  waistcoat  unbuttoned,  feet  on  the 
desk,  and  the  spittoon  alongside.18 

258  /  THE    DRY    TREE 

It  is  not  established,  however,  that  Harding  ever  went  to  the  notori- 
ous parties  at  1625  K  Street,  where  the  Ohio  Gang  took  up  their  head- 
quarters and  began  their  system  of  what  Senator  Brookhart,  of  Iowa, 
called  "government  by  blackmail."  With  Harry  Daugherty  as  Attorney 
General  and  the  unscrupulous  William  J.  Burns  running  the  Depart- 
ment of  Justice  as  a  private  police  force  for  the  gang's  benefit,  pickings 
were  large  and  easy.  Indeed,  one  of  the  main  reasons  that  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  did  not  want  the  Prohibition  Bureau  transferred  from 
the  Treasury  to  the  Department  of  Justice  was  that  it  would  merely  be 
a  transfer  from  inefficiency  to  corruption. 

Meanwhile,  the  unknowing  Harding  was  making  moral  appeals  for 
good  citizens  to  obey  the  Eighteenth  Amendment.  At  his  home  town, 
Marion,  in  1922,  he  said  that  the  amendment  was  the  will  of  America 
and  must  be  sustained  by  government  and  public  opinion.19  In  his 
message  to  Congress  in  December  of  that  year,  he  repeated  his  state- 
ment, although  the  corruption  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  had  now  be- 
come too  notorious  to  be  ignored.  Harding  darkly  referred  to  the  Vol- 
stead Act  and  "conditions  relating  to  its  enforcement  which  savor  of 
nation-wide  scandal."  Yet  his  remedy  was  not  the  reorganization  of  the 
Prohibition  Bureau  but  an  exhortation  for  individuals  to  refuse  to 
drink  bootleg  liquor  and  for  larger  appropriations  by  the  states.20 

Harding  himself,  at  last  grown  aware  of  the  treachery  of  his  friends 
and  the  need  of  the  President  to  set  an  example,  even  began  to  give 
up  his  own  drinking  habits.  He  moved  his  liquor  stock  up  to  the  se- 
crecy of  his  bedroom  and,  under  pressure  from  Wayne  B.  Wheeler, 
announced  to  reporters  in  January,  1923,  that  he  had  become  a  total 
abstainer.  No  alcohol  was  put  on  the  presidential  train  during  his  last 
trip  to  Alaska,  and  if  a  kind  reporter  slipped  him  a  bottle  of  whisky  on 
the  sea  voyage,  it  was  his  only  known  backsliding.21  For  Harding  be- 
lieved what  he  said,  even  if  his  words  were  incoherent.  The  job  of  be- 
ing President  became,  by  the  end  of  his  term,  greater  than  the  man. 
He  seemed  genuinely  shocked  by  New  York's  repeal  of  its  state 
enforcement  law  in  May,  and  said,  in  an  oblique  attack  on  Governor 
Alfred  E.  Smith,  that  both  national  executives  and  state  executives 
were  equally  sworn  to  enforce  the  Constitution.22  He  even  claimed 
that  the  Prohibition  Bureau  was  doing  a  good  job  in  his  foreword  to 
Commissioner  Roy  A.  Haynes's  book,  Prohibition  Inside  Out.  "The  Pro- 
hibition Department  has  made,  and  is  making,  substantial  progress. 
It  deserves  the  support  of  all  our  people  in  its  great  work."28 

Harding  spoke  for  the  last  time  on  prohibition  at  Denver,  Colorado, 
during  his  fatal  trip  to  Alaska.  He  stated  that  neither  party  was  ever 
likely  to  urge  repeal  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment.  He  claimed,  to  the 
derision  of  the  cartoonists,  that  the  wets  were  a  very  small  part  of  the 


population.  And  he  puffed  out  the  usual  cloudy  confusions  of  the  dry 
propagandists,  who  tried  to  maintain  that  an  occasional  drink  was 
equivalent  to  a  full-scale  assault  on  the  American  way  of  life.  Hard- 
ing's  speech  mirrored  the  intellectual  inadequacy  of  the  drys;  it  was  a 
masterpiece  of  sonorous  fallacies,  lifting  a  difference  of  opinion  to  the 
level  of  an  attack  on  order  and  government. 

The  issue  is  fast  coming  to  be  recognized,  not  as  one  between  wets 
and  drys,  not  as  a  question  between  those  who  believe  in  prohibition 
and  those  who  do  not,  not  as  a  contention  between  those  who  want  to 
drink  and  those  who  do  not  —  it  is  fast  being  raised  above  all  that  — 
but  as  one  involving  the  great  question  whether  the  laws  of  this  coun- 
try can  and  will  be  enforced.24 

Harding  died,  probably  of  heart  failure,  on  his  return  from  Alaska. 
Had  he  lived,  he  might  have  been  impeached  for  agreeing  to  sign 
away  the  oil  lands  put  aside  for  the  Navy.  Within  a  few  years,  his  wife, 
his  doctor,  and  most  of  the  Ohio  Gang  were  dead  or  in  prison.  Allega- 
tions that  his  decease  was  not  natural  seem  to  be  unfounded,  although 
the  suicides  and  sudden  deaths  of  some  of  his  Ohio  associates  were 
suspiciously  convenient  for  the  survivors.  Whatever  the  reason  for  his 
end,  Harding's  burial  was  timely.  Dying  was  the  greatest  service  he 
could  have  performed  for  his  party.  For  he  was  regarded  in  the  suc- 
ceeding presidential  election  as  a  martyr,  killed  by  overwork  and  dis- 
loyal friends.  His  omissions  over  prohibition  and  greater  matters  were 
forgiven  with  his  death. 


"IN  PUBLIC  life  it  is  sometimes  necessary  in  order  to  appear  really 
natural  to  be  actually  artificial/'  wrote  Calvin  Coolidge.25  His  own  na- 
ture was  always  considered  to  have  been  formed  by  the  nature  of  his 
native  Vermont.  He  improved  upon  that  inheritance  merely  to  seem 
more  like  the  product  of  the  place.  If  the  people  of  Vermont  were 
thrifty  and  hard-working  and  ambitious,  believers  in  God  and  local 
government  and  the  worth  of  business  and  the  Republican  party,  then 
Calvin  Coolidge  was  ostentatiously  so,  in  the  clipped  manner  of  his 
ancestors.  He  was  parsimonious,  even  saving  part  of  his  presidential 
salary.  He  was  industrious,  cutting  short  his  honeymoon  to  return  to 
his  law  office.  He  was  very  ambitious,  rising  to  be  President  through  a 
planned  series  of  electoral  victories,  which  he  called  fate  and  his  op- 
ponents called  good  management.  As  President,  he  left  as  much  as  he 
could  in  the  hands  of  God  and  did  as  little  as  possible,  in  order  to 
economize  on  the  federal  budget  and  to  allow  local  authorities  the 

260   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

luxury  of  effecting  their  own  improvements.  He  trusted  businessmen 
so  faithfully  that  he  even  appointed  them  to  staff  the  federal  boards 
set  up  to  regulate  their  businesses.  And  he  was  always  a  convinced 
Republican,  although  his  sense  that  he  was  "but  an  instrument  in  the 
hands  of  God"  made  him  think  he  was  called  to  be  above  party,  when 
he  was  being  efficiently  exploited  by  his  own.26 

Prohibition  was  no  private  problem  to  Coolidge,  merely  a  political 
bore.  He  was  a  teetotaler,  who  drank  rarely  on  certain  social  occasions. 
He  practiced  throughout  his  life  his  family's  virtues  of  self-restraint 
and  saving,  even  to  the  extent  of  refusing  to  allow  himself  to  become 
a  great  President.  He  wrote,  "It  is  a  great  advantage  to  a  President, 
and  a  major  source  of  safety  to  the  country,  for  him  to  know  that  he 
is  not  a  great  man."27  Thinking  himself  inferior,  Calvin  Coolidge  made 
no  effort  to  act  like  a  great  man.  His  fear  of  greatness  was  so  strong 
that  he  let  the  various  forces  in  American  life  operate  unchecked 
except  by  Providence  and  the  misunderstood  principles  of  economy. 
He  thought  that  the  integrity  of  the  President's  own  example  was  a 
better  instrument  of  government  than  the  use  of  federal  power. 

Calvin  Coolidge's  personal  honesty  was  another  quality  he  had  in- 
herited from  his  early  society.  Yet  this  virtue  applied  only  to  his 
private  life.  His  political  use  of  his  personal  honesty  was  the  worst 
form  of  intellectual  self-deceit.  He  took  refuge  in  his  own  sense  of 
incorruptibility  to  allow  the  powers  which  backed  him,  business  and 
political,  to  corrupt  whomsoever  they  wished.  An  honest  man  may  be 
a  dishonest  politician  by  ignoring  the  interests  of  those  he  represents 
in  the  contemplation  of  his  rectitude.  Had  Coolidge  remained  in 
Vermont,  cultivating  the  forty  acres  left  to  him  by  his  grandfather, 
his  personal  doctrine  of  work  and  save  would  have  made  him  right- 
fully respected.  But  when  his  ambition  drove  him  to  the  White  House, 
he  thought  that  his  good  fortune  was  the  living  proof  of  his  doctrine  of 
self-help,  not  the  greatest  opportunity  given  to  a  single  man  to  help 

Calvin  Coolidge,  become  great  in  office,  did  as  little  as  possible.  He 
made  few  mistakes,  but  he  did  nothing  to  prevent  the  speculative 
boom  that  was  to  destroy  in  the  slump  of  1929  the  image  of  business 
as  Mammon,  the  friend  of  God.  He  himself  personally  saved  his 
salary,  put  some  hundred  thousand  dollars  into  safe  gilt-edged  stock, 
and  was  not  affected  by  the  Great  Crash  in  his  private  life,  although 
he  was  partially  responsible  for  the  depression  by  failing  to  use  the 
federal  power  to  control  the  stock  market.  Prohibition  was  another 
issue  on  which  Coolidge,  by  doing  little,  was  responsible  for  much. 

When  Calvin  Coolidge  left  Amherst  College,  he  went  to  Northamp- 
ton, Massachusetts,  to  learn  and  practice  law.  More  interested  in  the 

MASTERS     OF    INACTION/   261 

acquisition  of  political  office  than  of  money,  Coolidge  served  in  many 
municipal  posts  until  he  finally  ran  for  Mayor  of  Northampton  in  1910. 
In  this  campaign,  prohibition  first  came  to  his  aid.  Although  Coolidge 
was  the  attorney  for  a  powerful  brewery,  the  drys  supported  him,  since 
his  Democratic  opponent  had  once,  out  of  academic  interest,  taken 
the  wet  side  in  a  debate  in  the  Congregational  Church.  In  the  cam- 
paign, Coolidge  followed  his  lifelong  policy  of  saying  nothing  on 
prohibition  at  all,  in  order  to  appear  the  friend  of  all,  a  private  tee- 
totaler and  a  public  brewer's  lawyer.  He  won  the  election,  despite  an 
accusation  in  the  Northampton  Daily  Herald  that  his  victory  was  due 
to  Rum  and  Religion.  As  usual,  he  defended  himself  from  this  attack 
by  a  reference  to  his  personal  habits,  not  to  his  political  helpers.  He 
wrote  to  his  father,  "I  did  not  have  to  reply  to  the  Herald  attack,  for 
everybody  knew  it  was  not  true.  Folks  know  I  do  not  go  into  saloons, 
and  I  never  bought  a  drink  during  the  campaign.**28 

Yet  his  political  equivocation  was  evident  on  the  morning  of  the 
election  when  he  drove  down  to  vote  with  a  dry  Methodist  minister 
on  his  left  and  a  wet  politician  on  his  right.  An  old  friend  pointed  out 
that  Calvin  Coolidge  was  holding  the  communion  cup  in  one  hand  and 
a  glass  of  beer  in  the  other  and  spilling  neither.29  By  refusing  to  belong 
officially  to  any  church  until  he  became  President  or  to  any  prohibition 
organization,  Coolidge  could  attract  the  negative  support  of  all  who 
were  offended  by  particular  churches  and  liquor  laws. 

Coolidge's  success  in  Northampton  was  due  to  his  appeal  both  to 
the  church  and  to  the  saloon  vote.  There  were  eighteen  churches  and 
eighteen  saloons  for  a  town  population  of  18,000,  which  was  almost 
exactly  split  between  the  old  American  stock  and  the  immigrants,  be- 
tween Protestants  and  Roman  Catholics.  This  religious  and  racial  split 
was  a  microcosm  of  the  whole  situation  in  Massachusetts  and  in  the 
nation.  Throughout  his  political  career,  Coolidge  had  to  appeal  to  a 
certain  number  of  wet,  Roman  Catholic,  immigrant  voters,  although 
he  was  personally  a  dry,  nondenominational,  traditional  Vermonter. 
Thus  he  had  to  be  silent  on  racial  and  religious  issues.  This  silence  he 
built  up  into  a  myth  of  political  honesty,  not  of  political  acumen. 

The  steady  progress  of  Coolidge  from  the  post  of  Mayor  of  North- 
ampton into  the  state  House  of  Representatives  and  into  the  state 
Senate  demonstrated  that  his  shyness,  economy  of  language,  and  dis- 
cretion were  great  assets  in  the  elections.  For  western  Massachusetts 
was  mainly  Congregationalist  and  Republican  and  dry,  the  home  of 
old  American  stock  and  small  industries;  while  eastern  Massachusetts 
was  chiefly  Roman  Catholic  and  Democratic  and  wet,  the  home  of 
Irishmen  and  large  industries.  Senator  Murray  Crane,  the  sophisticated 
Republican  boss  of  his  time  in  the  areas  where  Senator  Lodge  had  not 

262   /THE    DRY    TREE 

carved  out  his  own  preserves,  helped  the  prudently  silent  Coolidge 
into  the  leadership  of  the  state  Senate  and  eventually  into  the  lieu- 
tenant governorship  and  governorship.  A  man  like  Coolidge,  who  had 
been  progressive  when  Theodore  Roosevelt  was  progressive  within 
his  party,  and  who  was  conservative  when  big  business  was  accused 
of  self-interest  rather  than  public  interest,  was  always  useful  to  any 
Republican  machine.  Moreover,  both  Crane  and  Coolidge  knew  that, 
except  in  times  of  war  or  crusade,  a  shut  mouth  was  better  than  a 
fiery  tongue.30 

Coolidge  took  refuge  from  the  danger  of  opposing  the  drys  on  the 
good  democratic  grounds  that  local  government  was  the  best  form  of 
government.  In  Northampton,  he  had  supported  the  license  system  by 
saying  that  total  prohibition  would  be  impossible  to  enforce  on  a  .town 
surrounded  by  wet  areas.  Besides,  he  refused  to  mention  the  liquor 
problem  at  all  during  his  political  campaigns,  since  he  maintained  that 
it  distracted  voters  from  more  important  issues.  In  his  campaign  for 
Lieutenant  Governor,  he  was  actually  opposed  by  the  drys  and  the 
progressives.  But  his  own  abstinence,  allied  with  the  support  of  the 
brewers  and  the  conservatives,  secured  him  a  majority  of  over  100,000 

But  more  and  more  states  were  going  dry.  Therefore,  the  careful 
Coolidge  was  discreet  in  his  campaign  for  Governor  in  1918.  The 
Republican  candidate  for  the  Senate,  John  W.  Weeks,  was  opposed  by 
die  suffragettes,  labor,  and  the  prohibitionists.  Coolidge  knew  this  and 
avoided  any  mention  of  Weeks  during  his  campaign.  Weeks  lost; 
Coolidge  won.  He  was  helped  by  the  fact  that  Frank  W.  Stearns,  his 
self-appointed  and  selfless  publicity  manager,  was  actively  working 
for  the  adoption  of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  by  the  Massachusetts 
legislature.  Moreover,  Senator  Crane  was  backing  ratification  by 
Massachusetts,  "first,  because  it's  right,  and  secondly,  because  Massa- 
chusetts will  lose  its  influence  in  the  counsels  of  the  Nation  if  it  does 
not  join  in  this  movement  of  national  conviction/'81  Crane  may  not 
have  had  a  real  change  of  heart  in  accepting  the  morality  of  prohibi- 
tion, but  he  would  certainly  never  be  left  off  a  successful  bandwagon. 
Coolidge,  always  the  lawyer  and  the  friend  of  Crane,  went  dry  after 
die  election  and  after  ratification  by  Massachusetts  —  an  important 
victory  which  swung  die  immigrant  and  industrial  Northern  states 
behind  the  drys.  In  1919,  as  Governor  of  Massachusetts,  Coolidge 
vetoed  a  bill  passed  by  the  wets  in  die  state  legislature,  which  allowed 
the  sale  of  weak  beer.  Coolidge's  reason  was  that  the  bill  was  in  viola- 
tion of  the  Constitution  that  he  had  sworn  to  defend. 

Prohibition  was  a  strange  factor  in  the  incident  which  made  Cool- 
idge nationally  known  and  led  to  his  nomination  as  Vice  President 

MASTERS     OF     INACTION/   263 

and  later  as  President.  The  Boston  police  went  on  strike  in  1919,  be- 
cause their  commissioner  refused  to  allow  their  union  to  become 
affiliated  with  the  American  Federation  of  Labor.  The  policemen  were 
badly  paid  and  depended  on  bribes  from  saloonkeepers  to  supplement 
their  incomes.32  But  in  the  first  two  years  of  prohibition  in  Boston, 
some  attempt  was  made  to  enforce  the  law.  The  old  saloons  were 
closed  down,  and  the  new  bootleggers  were  not  yet  operating  on  a 
sufficiently  wide  scale  to  take  their  place  as  employers  of  the  police. 
Thus,  by  efficient  service,  the  policemen  found  themselves  with  too 
little  money  to  support  themselves.  They  went  on  strike.  After  some 
looting  and  a  riot  in  Scollay  Square,  where  two  were  killed  and  nine 
injured  by  the  State  Guard,  Governor  Coolidge  intervened  with  mes- 
sages and  force,  although  the  whole  matter  had  already  been  settled 
by  the  Mayor  of  Boston.  Coolidge  always  believed  in  gaining  the 
credit  for  successful  actions  without  running  the  risk  of  performing  un- 
pleasant ones.  His  message  to  Samuel  Gompers  that  there  was  "no 
right  to  strike  against  the  public  safety  by  any  body,  any  time,  any 
where"  had  all  the  qualities  of  strength  and  brevity  needed  to  impress 
a  people  scared  of  Reds  and  revolution.  It  was  widely  and  carefully 

Therefore,  Calvin  Coolidge  had  some  hopes  of  nomination  as  a  dark 
horse  at  the  Republican  convention  of  1920.  As  always,  there  was  little 
to  be  said  against  him,  even  if  there  was  little  to  be  said  for  him.  He 
was,  in  fact,  available,  especially  as  he  had  won  many  elections  in  the 
key  state  of  Massachusetts.  Stearns,  conscious  of  the  power  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League,  had  taken  care  to  have  fifty  thousand  copies  of 
Coolidge's  veto  of  the  beer  bill  sent  around  to  a  carefully  selected 
list  of  prominent  party  members.  The  veto  message  had  been  com- 
mended by  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  as  "characteristically  epigrammatic, 
faultless  in  logic,  American  to  the  core  and  in  harmony  with  the 
fundamental  principles  of  law  and  order  for  which  Governor  Coolidge 
has  made  himself  famous/'83  The  stampede  of  the  convention  for 
Coolidge  as  Vice  President  may  have  had  something  to  do  with  his 
dry  reputation,  but  it  was  more  a  protest  against  the  attempted  foisting 
of  Senator  Lenroot  on  the  delegates  by  the  same  senatorial  soviet  that 
had  nominated  Harding. 

At  this  period,  the  office  of  Vice  President  was  chiefly  a  time  of 
waiting  for  a  dead  man's  shoes.  Coolidge  duly  waited,  and  was  re- 
warded. President  Harding  died  on  August  3,  1923.  Calvin  Coolidge's 
father  administered  the  presidential  oath  to  his  son  at  a  carefully 
simple  ceremony  at  his  home  in  Plymouth  Notch.  Coolidge  continued 
the  Harding  policy  and  Cabinet,  only  dismissing  Daugherty  with  the 
greatest  reluctance  when  prohibition  scandals  became  too  notorious. 

264   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

The  appointment  of  Harlan  F.  Stone  to  the  position  of  Attorney  Gen- 
eral put  a  stop  to  the  "government  by  blackmail"  of  the  Department 
of  Justice,  and  to  official  protection  of  bootleggers  by  the  enforcement 

Coolidge,  however,  was  no  more  prepared  than  Harding  to  see  that 
the  Volstead  Act  was  properly  enforced.  He  merely  did  not  collect 
official  protection  from  the  bootleggers.  He  was  willing,  as  Harding 
was,  to  make  speeches  about  the  need  to  obey  the  law.  At  the  Gov- 
ernors' Conference  of  1923,  Coolidge  spoke  of  the  necessity  for  state 
co-operation  in  enforcement  and  the  duty  of  the  citizen  to  obey  the 
Constitution.  The  main  problem  arose  from  those  who  wanted  to  make 
money  from  bootlegging;  if  this  could  be  eliminated,  the  rest  would  be 
easy.84  In  his  message  to  Congress  of  that  year,  he  again  exhorted  the 
private  citizen  to  abstinence  from  liquor,  asked  for  large  appropri- 
ations from  the  states  for  enforcement,  and  demanded  an  increase  in 
the  efficiency  of  the  Coast  Guard  by  the  use  of  fast  speedboats.35 
Congress  reduced  the  appropriation  for  the  Prohibition  Bureau  from 
$8,500,000  to  $8,250,000,  listening  to  Coolidge's  pleas  for  national 
economy  rather  than  for  good  government.86 

Coolidge  was  not  prepared  to  challenge  Congress  to  enforce  its  own 
legislation.  He  did  not  point  out  that  the  Volstead  Act  could  never  be 
put  into  effect  by  an  ill-paid  and  minute  force  of  agents.  He  thought 
it  sufficient  to  set  a  good  example  in  personal  prohibition,  not  to  force 
others  to  be  as  good  as  himself.  Alice  Roosevelt  Longworth  found  the 
atmosphere  in  the  White  House  under  Coolidge  "as  different  as  a  New 
England  front  parlor  is  from  a  back  room  in  a  speakeasy."87  Coolidge 
used  his  own  example  to  cover  up  his  political  evasion.  Even  the 
Republican  William  Allen  White  complained  that,  while  the  Presi- 
dent believed  in  a  fair  trial  at  strict  enforcement,  he  refused  to  evan- 
gelize or  make  sentiment  for  the  Volstead  Act  — the  one  thing  it 
needed.88  White  further  complained  that  Coolidge  was  silent  about 
the  heavy  drinking  of  the  upper  classes,  when  "prohibition  was  pretty 
badly  up  against  it  in  the  East/'89  But  Coolidge  ignored  the  moralists, 
sat  tight,  and  did  little  except  talk  about  the  duties  of  the  good  citizen. 

His  prudent  silence  served  Coolidge  well  in  the  election  of  1924. 
He  was  the  automatic,  if  unwilling,  nominee  of  his  party  in  1924.  The 
Progressive  Senator  from  Wisconsin,  Robert  M.  La  Follette,  bolted 
his  party  to  oppose  him.  And  the  Democrats  nominated  a  Wall  Street 
lawyer  from  West  Virginia,  John  W.  Davis.  Prohibition  was  one  of  the 
reasons  for  Davis's  nomination  in  New  York,  after  seventeen  days  and 
103  ballots,  and  the  longest  and  most  unpleasant  convention  in  a  party 
history  of  long  and  unpleasant  conventions. 

There,  the  issues  that  split  the  Democrats  until  the  depression  came 


out  violently  and  vulgarly  into  the  open.  William  G.  McAdoo,  backed 
by  the  Solid  South  and  the  drys  and  the  Protestants  and  the  Ku  Klux 
Klan,  was  deadlocked  with  Alfred  E.  Smith,  the  reform  Governor  of 
New  York,  backed  by  Tammany  Hall  and  the  wets  and  the  Roman 
Catholics  and  the  Northern  urban  immigrants.  Neither  would  give  way 
to  the  other,  and  neither  could  reach  the  required  two-thirds  majority 
for  victory.  Cox  was  also  running  as  Ohio's  favorite  son,  but  he  had 
merely  had  himself  nominated  to  keep  the  votes  of  the  state  from 
McAdoo,  whom  he  disliked.  The  galleries  were  full  of  Al  Smith's 
supporters.  They  gave  Bryan  a  dreadful  drubbing  when  he  rose  to  ask 
forgiveness  for  the  Ku  Klux  Klan.  He  was  booed  and  hissed  and 
humiliated,  and  a  motion  to  censure  the  Klan  was  lost  by  only  one 
vote  in  over  a  thousand.  Bryan  did  keep  a  wet  plank  out  of  the  party 
platform  and  help  to  scotch  Al  Smith's  nomination.  But  his  pet  abomi- 
nation, a  lawyer  who  had  taken  cases  for  J.  P.  Morgan,  was  eventually 
picked  out  by  the  tired  delegates.  Not  even  the  nomination  of  Bryan's 
younger  brother  Charles  as  candidate  for  Vice  President  could  mollify 
the  aging  Great  Commoner  to  approve  of  Davis  as  the  Democratic 
choice  for  President. 

It  might  have  been  better  strategy  for  Davis  to  declare  himself  in 
favor  of  modification  of  the  Volstead  Act,  instead  of  shifting  uneasily 
from  dry  foot  to  wet  foot  and  ending  on  his  knees.  For,  unless  a 
Roman  Catholic  ran  as  the  Democratic  candidate  for  President, 
the  Solid  South  would  still  probably  vote  solid,  and  a  great  many  wet 
votes  might  be  gained  in  the  Northern  cities.  Mencken  savagely  at- 
tacked Davis  for  his  evasiveness  on  the  prohibition  issue.40  All  Davis 
would  say  was  what  he  said  in  his  acceptance  speech,  that  he  held  in 
contempt  any  public  official  who  took  an  oath  to  uphold  the  Constitu- 
tion and  made  a  mental  reservation  to  exclude  any  word  of  that  great 
document.  Silent  Calvin  Coolidge  did  far  better  by  saying  nothing 
about  prohibition,  or  much  else. 

The  continual  speeches  of  Davis  insisting  that  he  would  enforce  the 
law  properly  lost  wet  votes  without  gaining  dry  ones.  Wheeler  even 
accused  him  of  deviating  from  his  party  platform  and  having  secret 
alcoholic  leanings,  because  he  constantly  repeated  such  wet  catch 
phrases  as  "personal  liberty  is  the  doctrine  of  self-restraint"  and  "home 
rule."41  Davis,  in  trying  to  please  both  sides,  pleased  neither;  he  polled 
even  fewer  votes  than  Cox.  At  the  end  of  the  campaign,  he  wryly  told 
a  joke  against  himself,  explaining  how  he  had  lost  both  wets  and  drys. 
He  had  received  a  letter  from  a  habitual  Democrat  and  prohibitionist 
who  was  sorry  that  he  had  had  to  vote  for  a  Republican  for  the  first 
time,  but  he  could  not  vote  for  a  Democrat  who  had  been  President 
of  the  New  York  Bar  Association.42 

266   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

Mencken,  who  was  normally  proud  of  being  a  reactionary,  voted 
in  the  end  for  La  Follette,  since  he  was  that  impossible  phenomenon, 
an  honest  politician.  Yet  La  Follette,  too,  was  a  trimmer  on  prohibition. 
The  Wisconsin  Progressive  and  Senator  had  sometimes  drunk  too 
much  in  his  youth,  but  he  had  paid  for  his  sins  by  joining  the  Good 
Templars.43  He  had  made  Wisconsin  a  model  state  with  a  reform 
government  and  had  led  the  progressive  wing  of  the  Republicans  for 
many  years.  With  six  others  in  the  Senate,  he  had  voted  against 
America's  entry  into  the  First  World  War.  Even  when  Theodore 
Roosevelt  had  recommended  that  he  should  be  hanged  as  a  traitor, 
he  had  stuck  firm,  more  for  his  principles  than  for  the  German  vote 
in  Wisconsin.  He  had  supported  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  as  the 
articles  in  the  Nation  backing  his  candidacy  pointed  out;  but  he  had 
voted  against  the  Volstead  Act  His  decision  to  run  for  President  at  the 
age  of  sixty-nine  was  only  taken  when  he  found  the  nominees  of  both 
parties  to  be  the  friends  of  big  business. 

La  Follette  campaigned  on  his  usual  Progressive  platform.  He  was 
inevitably  and  frequently  accused  of  being  a  Red  by  Charles  Dawes, 
Coolidge's  Vice  President.  In  addition,  he  was  attacked  by  Clarence 
True  Wilson  as  the  only  wet  candidate  for  the  presidency,  although  he 
had  taken  up  the  same  position  over  prohibition  as  his  two  opponents, 
writing  that  while  the  Volstead  Act  was  still  law  "it  should  be  enforced 
for  rich  and  poor  alike,  without  hypocrisy  or  favoritism/'44  Perhaps 
this  was  the  statement  Clarence  True  Wilson  disliked;  the  drys  had 
attracted  big  business  to  their  side  by  agreeing  that  prohibition  should 
be  enforced  on  the  poor,  with  a  blind  eye  turned  on  the  rich.  Wheel- 
er's opposition  to  La  Follette  was  more  political.  He  shared  in  the  fear 
that  a  large  vote  for  a  third  party  might  throw  the  presidential  election 
into  the  House  of  Representatives;  and  a  deadlock  there  would  mean 
the  election  by  the  Senate  of  one  of  the  two  Vice  Presidents  to  the 
presidency,  a  man  who  probably  would  not  be  so  amenable  to  Wheel- 
er's dictates  as  Coolidge. 

The  danger  of  La  Follette's  candidacy  was  exaggerated.  He  secured 
only  one  vote  out  of  six,  and  thirteen  votes  from  Wisconsin  in  the  Elec- 
toral College,  although  he  ran  ahead  of  Davis  in  twelve  Western  states. 
Coolidge  won  by  a  landslide,  even  though  it  was  La  Follette  who  had 
come  from  the  genuine  log  cabin.  Davis  lost  by  a  greater  margin  than 
Cox,  since  he  had  the  further  disadvantage  of  representing  nothing 
except  the  traditional  Democratic  party  between  the  candidate  of  the 
Haves  and  the  candidate  of  the  Have-nots. 

Calvin  Coolidge,  elected  to  the  White  House  in  his  own  right  by  an 
overwhelming  majority,  presumed  that  his  huge  mandate  was  a  public 
expression  of  gratitude  for  his  policy  of  federal  inaction.  During  the 


next  four  years,  he  continued  to  do  little,  and  never  did  little  when  less 
would  do.  The  enforcement  of  prohibition  hardly  improved,  although 
Coolidge  did  sign  a  bill  in  1927  to  make  the  Prohibition  Bureau  an 
independent  body.  After  his  reorganization  of  the  144  departments  in 
the  Massachusetts  government  into  a  mere  20,  he  thought  that  good 
government  was  the  result  of  the  shuffling  about  of  responsibilities 
and  memoranda,  not  of  increased  taxes  and  increased  efficiency. 

Coolidge,  during  the  five  years  he  was  President,  was  the  curious 
negative  image  of  boom  times.  He  was  the  reverse  of  the  society  he 
led.  He  did  not  seek  to  end  corruption  and  exaggerated  profits  and  vast 
speculation.  He  did  not  try  to  stamp  out  bootleggers  and  speak-easies 
and  bad  prohibition  agents.  He  merely  was  not  corrupt  himself  and 
did  not  drink.  He  expected  the  rest  of  the  United  States  to  follow  his 
good  example,  without  even  exhorting  them  by  political  speeches.  He 
had  won  the  election  of  1924  by  saying  nothing  about  prohibition  or 
the  scandals  of  the  Harding  regime;  he  merely  collected  votes  as  he 
had  done  in  the  Northampton  election  for  Mayor  in  1910  by  attracting 
through  silence.  La  Follette  was  a  Red,  Charles  Bryan  was  a  radical 
Westerner  like  his  brother  William  Jennings,  John  Davis  was  a  rich 
corporation  lawyer,  while  Coolidge  was  his  thrifty  and  honest  and 
negative  self.  Thus  he  amassed,  as  he  amassed  in  all  his  campaigns, 
the  votes  that  were  annoyed  by  some  characteristic  in  the  other  candi- 
dates and  could  find  nothing  positive  enough  in  Coolidge  to  dislike. 

As  Walter  Lippmann  pointed  out,  Coolidge,  with  an  exquisite  sub- 
tlety that  amounted  to  genius,  used  dullness  and  boredom  as  political 
devices;  under  him  America  attained  a  Puritanism  de  luxe,  in  which 
it  was  possible  to  praise  the  classic  virtues  while  continuing  to  enjoy 
all  the  modern  conveniences.45  Coolidge  was  the  figurehead  of  his 
people.  They  felt  that,  while  he  denied  himself,  his  abstinence  would 
excuse  their  own  indulgence,  and  his  narrow  sense  of  his  own  duties 
would  allow  that  indulgence.  They  were  right.  Coolidge,  incorruptible 
to  the  end,  allowed  Wall  Street  and  prohibition  to  plunge  the  country 
into  speculative  and  moral  disaster.46 

On  the  fourth  anniversary  of  his  Inauguration,  Coolidge  announced 
that  he  did  not  choose  to  run  for  President  in  1928.  This  formula  was 
one  of  Coolidge's  cleverest  evasions,  where  an  honest  statement  of 
abdication  hid  a  dishonest  attempt  to  allow  his  party  to  renominate 
him  for  a  third  term.  He  did  not  choose  to  run,  but  he  did  not  refuse 
to  run  if  his  party  chose  him.  This  was  the  interpretation  put  on  his 
statement  by  his  intimate  friends  like  Stearns  and  Chief  Justice  Taft 
And  if  Herbert  Hoover  gained  control  of  the  Republican  convention 
machinery  so  effectively  that  he  was  nominated  on  the  first  ballot, 
Coolidge's  disappointment  was  real  enough,  although  his  Avtobiog- 

268   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

raphy  states  that  he  never  intended  to  run  again,  as  he  did  not  want  to 
be  thought  selfish.47 

Coolidge  was  always  cryptic  in  order  to  have  an  escape  route  ready 
against  failure.  He  was  always  personally  honest  in  order  to  defend 
himself  against  the  use  of  corrupt  friends.  He  was  a  teetotaler  so  that 
he  could  plead  personal  abstinence  when  he  was  accused  of  having  the 
support  of  the  liquor  interests,  or  of  failing  to  enforce  prohibition. 
He  was  a  small  man  who  pushed  himself  into  great  offices  by  preach- 
ing his  small  virtues  and  allowing  others  their  large  vices.  While  tens 
of  millions  suffered  in  the  great  depression,  Calvin  Coolidge  lived  well 
and  thriftily  on  the  money  he  had  saved  from  his  salary,  until  he  died 
suddenly  in  January,  1933,  from  coronary  thrombosis.  He  was  true  to 
the  grave,  doctoring  himself  with  indigestion  powders  rather  than 
wasting  mqney  by  consulting  a  heart  specialist. 

The  drys  were  unfortunate  and  the  drinkers  fortunate  that  men  of 
such  little  stature  as  Warren  Harding  and  Calvin  Coolidge  filled  the 
White  House  during  the  first  eight  years  of  national  prohibition.  But 
the  men  who  were  President  were  not  the  only  men  to  blame  for  the 
supine  enforcement  of  the  dry  law.  The  two  great  parties  in  the  land, 
and  the  houses  of  Congress,  were  equally  guilty  of  doing  little  about 
prohibition,  and  not  doing  it  very  well. 



The  Amphibious  Congress 

Congress  is  the  one  place  in  the  whole  United  States  in 
which  a  mouth  is  above  the  law;  the  heavens  may  fall,  the 
earth  be  consumed,  but  the  right  of  a  Congressman  to  He 
and  defame  remains  inviolate. 


The  Constitution  is  a  document  by  which  Congress  can 
make  its  mistakes  permanent. 

Politicians,  in  general,  are  not  fastidious,  and  most  of 
those  from  the  interior,  especially  the  drys,  are  ready  to 
drink  anything  that  burns,  at  the  same  time  giving  thanks 
to  God. 



THE  MAJOR  American  parties  are  uneasy  coalitions  of  areas.  These 
areas  have  their  own  faiths  and  traditions  and  wants.  Indeed,  the 
conflict  of  areas  within  the  parties  is  often  more  bitter  than  the  con- 
flict between  the  two  parties  themselves.  Yet,  for  one  party  to  defeat 
another,  an  appearance  of  harmony  must  be  presented  during  elec- 
tions. Although  party  conventions  may  be  the  place  for  what  Carry 
Nation  called  "hatchetation,"  the  hatchet  must  be  buried  to  woo  the 
voters.  For  this  reason,  both  parties  try  to  avoid  those  wounding  issues 
which  even  party  expediency  cannot  heal.  Such  an  issue  was  prohibi- 

The  straddles  of  the  dry  issue  by  the  major  parties  were  remarkable. 
Although  prohibition  was  a  national  problem  between  1916  and  1932, 
only  in  that  final  year  did  the  platform  of  either  party  make  more  than 
a  passing  reference  to  the  need  for  honest  law  enforcement.  For  the 
bosses  of  both  parties  did  not  want  the  subject  raised  at  all.  The 
Republicans  were  successful  at  suppressing  debate  at  the  conventions 
on  the  matter  until  Hoover's  second  nomination,  and  the  Democrats 

270   /THE    DRY    TREE 

were  unsuccessful.  In  this  matter,  the  nature  and  differences  of  both  of 
the  major  parties  were  revealed. 

The  tactics  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  played  into  the  hands  of  the 
evasive  strategy  of  the  party  bosses.  For  the-  League  did  not  want 
either  party  to  write  a  prohibition  plank  into  its  platform.  Such  an 
action  might  make  prohibition  a  partisan  issue,  and  the  League  was 
committed  to  a  nonpartisan  policy.  As  Bishop  Cannon  wrote  in  1920, 
"While  I  would  have  been  pleased  had  both  conventions  adopted  short 
law  enforcement  planks,  yet  after  it  failed  of  passage  by  the  Repub- 
lican convention,  it  was  better  for  the  prohibition  cause  that  it  should 
not  be  adopted  by  the  Democratic  convention."1  Thus  at  the  Demo- 
cratic convention  in  San  Francisco  the  strange  sight  was  seen  of  a 
Democratic  League  leader  speaking  against  a  plank  for  the  enforce- 
ment of  the  prohibition  law,  in  opposition  to  a  Republican  League 
leader,  Wayne  B.  Wheeler,  and  other  dry  spokesmen.  Cannon  was 
successful  in  preventing  the  Democrats  from  passing  the  dry  plank  in 
1920,  at  the  cost  of  being  denounced  by  William  Jennings  Bryan  as  a 
real,  if  not  intentional,  enemy  of  prohibition.2 

As  Mencken  pointed  out  on  the  subject  of  national  party  conven- 
tions, "Of  the  platform  only  one  thing  may  be  predicted:  that  it  will 
please  nobody.  And  of  the  candidate  only  one  thing  also:  that  he  will 
be  suspected  by  all.'*8  He  went  on  to  comment  that  a  single  factor 
broke  all  the  rules  in  American  politics.  That  factor  was  prohibition. 
It  caused  the  delegates  to  buck  their  normal  subservience  to  the  party 
bosses  and  the  masterminds,  and  defeated  all  attempts  to  bury  its 
discussion,  especially  among  the  Democrats.  Moreover,  it  brought 
out  a  fundamental  difference  between  the  personal  habits  of  the  dele- 
gates to  the  conventions.  "The  Republicans  commonly  carry  their 
liquor  better  than  the  Democrats,  just  as  they  commonly  wear  their 
clothes  better.  One  seldom  sees  one  of  them  actively  sick  in  the  con- 
vention hall,  or  dead  drunk  in  a  hotel  lobby."  This  individual  be- 
havior emphasized  the  party  difference.  "Republicans  have  a  natural 
talent  for  compromise,  but  to  Democrats  it  is  almost  impossible."4 

Until  1932,  the  history  of  prohibition  in  major  party  politics  is  a 
history  of  the  Democratic  party.  The  discreet  Republicans  swept  the 
affair  under  the  carpet  and  concentrated  on  the  business  of  Business. 
But  the  Democrats  battled  the  issue  up  gallery  and  down  hall.  It  was 
a  mirror  to  them,  an  inescapable  revelation  of  the  aged  wrinkles  that 
marred  the  fair  face  of  their  party.  In  that  glass,  the  uneasy  coalition 
of  Northern  cities  and  Southern  states  saw  its  flawed  donkey  face,  and 
brayed  its  self-hate  to  the  ears  of  the  nation.  It  was  not  until  the  South 
bolted  from  the  dry  cause  to  the  wet  Franklin  D.  Roosevelt  that  the 
Democrats  trotted  together  to  victory,  pulling  in  the  same  harness. 


The  Democrats  had  the  bad  luck  of  losing  their  great  leader  William 
Jennings  Bryan  to  the  cause  of  prohibition.  Bryan's  way  at  conventions 
was  not  the  way  of  hidden  negotiation  but  the  way  of  moral  stampede. 
As  an  unknown,  he  had  won  the  presidential  nomination  in  1896  by 
his  oratory  of  righteousness,  and  his  methods  did  not  alter.  In  1912, 
his  resolution  against  the  influence  of  the  big  businessmen,  Morgan 
and  Belmont  and  Ryan,  and  his  switch  to  the  support  of  Woodrow 
Wilson,  changed  the  course  of  a  convention  which  seemed  bound  to 
nominate  Champ  Clark,  of  Missouri.  In  1916,  Wilson  did  not  need 
Bryan's  help  and  used  his  loyalty  to  prevent  him  from  forcing  the 
issue  over  prohibition.  But  in  1920,  Bryan  was  not  so  hampered.  He 
went  there,  not  in  the  interests  of  any  candidate,  but  to  combat  the 
wet  element  of  the  East,  which  clamored  for  modification  of  the  Vol- 
stead Act  to  allow  the  sale  of  light  wines  and  beer.6  He  also  went 
there,  bullheaded  and  bright-armored,  to  secure  an  outright  prohibi- 
tion plank  in  the  party  platform.  Rather  than  Wheeler  s  wish  of  a 
plank  favoring  law  enforcement  or  Cannon's  wish  of  no  plank  at  all, 
Bryan  wanted  a  plank  favoring  prohibition  as  the  permanent  policy 
of  the  country,  and  favoring  the  enforcement  of  the  Volstead  Law  "in 
letter  and  in  spirit."6 

But  the  delegates  at  the  convention  were  seduced  not  by  the  golden 
voice  of  morality,  but  by  the  sly  whisper  of  expediency.  Cannon's 
policy  of  silence  prevailed.  The  convention  voted  down  Bryan's  dry 
plank  by  929&  votes  to  155J£,  and  Bourke  Cochran's  wet  plank  by 
726X  to  356.  The  platform,  which  made  no  mention  of  prohibition  or 
of  law  enforcement,  was  accepted  by  acclamation.  In  the  following 
struggle  for  the  nomination,  Bryan  tried  to  block  the  nomination  of 
Cox,  who  was  the  moist  candidate  of  the  wets,  by  circulating  among 
the  delegates  lengthy  statements  of  Cox's  wet  record  in  Ohio  during 
his  three  terms  as  Governor.  But  the  nominee  of  the  drys,  William  G. 
McAdoo,  had  too  many  enemies  to  triumph  over  Cox,  and  Bryan's 
heart  went  "in  the  grave"  with  his  defeat.  There  is  truth  in  Cannon's 
nasty  comment  that  Bryan  was  despondent  because  he  had  hoped  to 
make  prohibition  a  political  asset  and  realized  that  possibly  his  last 
chance  for  the  presidency  went  into  the  grave  with  the  dry  plank.7 

The  defeated  McAdoo  went  after  the  presidential  nomination  at  the 
next  convention  with  all  his  thoroughness  and  pertinacity.  He  corralled 
behind  him  the  vote  of  South  and  West,  and  the  unspoken  support  of 
the  Ku  Klux  Klan,  which  approved  of  such  a  dry  representative  of  old 
American  ideals  and  stock.  He  would  have  almost  certainly  won  the 
nomination  but  for  two  factors.  The  first  was  the  casual  revelation  of 
the  corrupt  oil  millionaire,  Edward  L.  Doheny,  in  the  Elk  Hills  and 
Teapot  Dome  scandal,  that  he  had  employed  McAdoo  as  his  attorney 

272   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

at  a  retainer  of  fifty  thousand  dollars  a  year.  And  the  second  was  the 
opposition  of  the  Eastern  cities,  led  by  the  wet  Irish  Governor  of  New 
York,  Alfred  E.  Smith. 

The  Democratic  convention  in  1924  was  the  bitterest  and  bloodiest 
in  party  history.  The  packed  galleries  howled  so  savagely  for  Smith 
that  a  fearful  Southern  dry  delegate  ran  to  the  press  box  for  a  stiff 
drink  and  protection.  Nothing  since  the  slavery  issue  had  so  broken 
apart  the  Democrats,  and  now  three  implacable  divisions  had  arisen, 
those  of  prohibition  and  of  religion  and  of  the  Ku  Klux  Klan.  After 
seventeen  days  of  balloting,  the  deadlock  between  McAdoo  and  Smith 
was  resolved  by  the  election  of  John  W.  Davis.  But  the  divisions  of 
the  party,  broadcast  throughout  the  nation  by  radio  for  the  first  time, 
were  neither  solved,  forgiven,  nor  forgotten.  A  resolution  to  condemn 
the  Klan  failed  by  one  vote;  luckily,  the  Klan  itself  failed  within  a 
few  years.  The  religious  issue  would  plague  the  Democrats  until  Smith 
was  finally  nominated  and  defeated  in  1928.  And  prohibition  remained 
the  Democratic  curse  and  muckrake. 

The  effort  of  the  Democrats  to  sidestep  the  prohibition  issue  by  try- 
ing to  make  the  Republicans  wholly  responsible  for  the  evils  of  en- 
forcement met  with  no  success,  liie  wets  knew  already  what  the 
Democratic  platform  charged,  that  "the  Republican  administration  has 
failed  to  enforce  the  prohibition  law,  is  guilty  of  trafficking  in  liquor 
permits,  and  has  become  the  protector  of  violators  of  this  law."  They 
did  not  want  to  vote  for  a  party  pledged  "to  respect  and  enforce  the 
Constitution  and  all  laws,"  but  for  a  party  pledged  to  outright  modi- 
fication or  repeal.  The  wets  were  even  disappointed  by  the  radical 
Progressive,  La  Follette,  who  was  so  equivocal  over  prohibition  that 
the  Association  Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment  refused  to  endorse 
him  for  the  presidency.8 

Yet,  if  the  Anti-Saloon  League  played  hell  with  the  politics  of  the 
major  parties,  so  did  the  major  parties  cause  rifts  in  the  united  front 
of  the  League.  After  the  death  in  1924  of  Purley  A.  Baker,  the  national 
superintendent  of  the  League,  a  compromise  candidate,  F.  Scott  Mc- 
Bride,  was  put  in  his  place.  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  and  Bishop  James 
Cannon  then  settled  down  to  a  bitter  struggle  for  control  of  the 
political  power  and  image  of  the  League.  Cannon  relinquished  the 
Republican  party  to  the  tender  care  of  Wheeler,  but  he  resented 
Wheeler's  forays  into  his  own  sphere  of  influence,  the  Democratic 
party.  He  maintained  that  Wheeler's  Republican  bias  and  his  backing 
of  Coolidge  for  re-election  in  1928  made  him  unfit  to  influence  the 
choice  of  the  Democratic  candidate.  Cannon  allowed  that  it  was  fair 
enough  for  Wheeler  to  do  his  work  among  the  Democrats  through 
Bryan,  who  was  a  close  friend  of  his;  but  he  bitterly  resented  Wheel- 


er's  attempt  to  take  credit  for  defeating  a  wet  Democratic  candidate 
in  the  convention  of  1924.  He  issued  a  statement  of  his  own  on  behalf 
of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  which  merely  read,  'The  wets  have  been 
defeated  in  their  efforts  to  secure  a  wet  plank  or  a  wet  candidate  at  the 
Democratic  convention.  There  is  no  smell  of  beer  or  wine  in  the  Demo- 
cratic platform,  and  the  candidate  is  a  strong  advocate  of  law  enforce- 

But  although  the  League  was  split  on  its  attitude  toward  the  major 
parties,  it  was  united  on  its  attitude  to  Congress.  In  Washington, 
Wayne  B.  Wheeler  had  full  control.  He  sat  smiling  in  the  Visitors' 
Gallery,  counting  the  number  of  the  drys  and  keeping  them  true  to 
the  cause  by  threats  of  retribution  at  the  polls.  As  Senator  Bruce,  of 
Maryland,  scornfully  declared,  'Wayne  B.  Wheeler  had  taken  snuff, 
and  the  Senate,  as  usual,  sneezed.  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  had  cracked  his 
whip,  and  the  Senate,  as  usual,  crouched/'10 


AN  ABTICLE  in  1923  described  the  Volstead  Act  as  neither  wet  nor  dry. 
There  was  only  one  word  to  describe  it.  It  was  "amphibious."11  This 
was  also  the  public  and  private  position  of  Congress  during  the  course 
of  national  prohibition. 

The  mood  of  Congress  after  the  passage  of  the  Volstead  Act  was  one 
of  relief.  They  appropriated  $2,000,000  for  its  enforcement,  and  hoped 
to  be  left  by  the  triumphant  drys  in  a  decent  peace.  They  should 
concentrate  on  more  important  matters,  such  as  America's  part  in  the 
League  of  Nations  and  the  "nation-wide  industrial  war"  threatening 
the  United  States.12  During  the  first  six  months  of  national  prohibition, 
the  subject  of  liquor  was  mentioned  in  Congress  only  six  times.  Al- 
though the  newspapers  and  law-enforcement  agencies  showed  how 
wet  the  cities  still  were  and  how  liquor  smuggling  was  making  a  non- 
sense of  the  border,  Congress  remained  in  willed  ignorance.  The  only 
serious  contribution  to  the  problems  of  prohibition  was  made  by 
Senator  Warren,  of  Wyoming,  who  pointed  out  that  a  proper  attempt 
to  enforce  the  Volstead  Act  might  cost  $50,000,000  a  year.  Senator 
Sheppard  read  in  reply  a  letter  from  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  which  stated 
that,  even  if  Senator  Warren's  figure  was  true,  it  would  not  be  "an 
inexcusable  expenditure,"  considering  the  waste  of  a  billion  dollars  a 
year  for  liquor  and  in  view  of  the  lawlessness  of  the  liquor  traffic.  In 
Wheeler's  opinion,  however,  $5,000,000  a  year  was  ample  to  enforce 
the  Volstead  Act,  and  this  sum  might  even  be  reduced  if  the  liquor 
dealers  suddenly  became  law-abiding.18 

The  second  year  of  prohibition  was  also  quiet  for  Congress.  It  was 

274  /   THE    DRY    TREE 

true,  there  were  complaints  about  the  difficulties  of  enforcement  from 
the  Commissioner  of  Internal  Revenue  and  the  Attorney  General.  An 
increased  total  of  $6,350,000  had  to  be  voted  to  pay  for  enforcement 
in  1921.  But  the  Anti-Saloon  League  was  happy  with  the  state  of  af- 
fairs, boasting  that  a  billion  dollars  had  been  saved  by  the  country  in 
1920. 14  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  even  predicted  that  prohibition  enforce- 
ment would  pay  for  itself  in  1921,  since  its  costs  would  be  less  than 
the  money  received  from  the  sale  of  confiscated  goods.15  Only  Attorney 
General  Palmer's  ruling  in  favor  of  the  medical  prescription  of  beer 
and  wine  disturbed  the  honeymoon  of  Congress  and  the  dry  lobbies. 
Nevertheless,  the  passage  of  the  Willis-Campbell  Act,  to  restrict  the 
medical  prescription  of  liquor,  rebuffed  the  medical  profession  and 
overruled  the  Attorney  General. 

During  these  two  years  of  congressional  inaction,  liquor  entered 
America  in  an  increasing  flood.  This  was  fully  reported  in  the  news- 
papers. Yet  the  dry  lobbies  made  no  protest.  For  they  were  in  a  diffi- 
cult position.  They  were  no  longer  revolutionaries  seeking  change,  but 
conservatives  defending  the  changes  made.  They  could  not  admit  that 
bootleg  liquor  was  easy  to  get  in  America  without  seeming  to  confess 
to  the  failure  of  national  prohibition.  They  could  not  agree  that  law 
enforcement  was  inadequate  without  seeming  to  preach  increased 
taxes  in  a  Republican  age  interested  in  public  economy.  And  above 
all,  they  could  not  confess  that  the  Volstead  Act  was  a  bad  act,  for 
they  had  written  it  themselves.  They  had  to  ignore  their  critics  and 
cry  complacency.  For  they  were  no  longer  the  accusers,  but  the 

In  one  aspect  of  prohibition  enforcement,  however,  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  and  Congress  were  blatantly  guilty.  That  aspect  was  the  clause 
in  the  Volstead  Act  which  exempted  prohibition  agents  from  Civil 
Service  examinations.  The  National  Civil  Service  Reform  League  op- 
posed the  clause  in  1919,  but  Congress  ignored  their  opposition.  The 
secretary  of  the  Reform  League,  finding  Congressman  Volstead  un- 
sympathetic, went  to  see  Wheeler  to  plead  his  cause.  Wheeler  ad- 
mitted the  desirability  of  putting  the  Prohibition  Bureau  under  Civil 
Service  rules,  "but  he  believed  it  would  be  impossible  to  obtain  the 
passage  of  a  bill  in  the  House  unless  the  places  were  exempted  from 
the  civil  service  law."16  In  other  words,  Wheeler  and  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  were  prepared  to  let  "the  slimy  trail  of  the  spoils  serpent"  issue 
from  Congress  in  return  for  the  passage  of  the  Volstead  Act.17  Wheeler 
wanted,  in  the  words  of  Senator  Bruce,  of  Maryland,  "to  trade  the 
offices  to  be  held  by  [prohibition]  agents  for  congressional  votes/*18 
Later,  when  corruption  in  the  Prohibition  Bureau  became  a  national 
scandal,  Wheeler  admitted  his  mistake.  But  while  appointments  to  the 


Bureau  remained  in  his  hands  and  those  of  Congress,  he  would  not 
relinquish  such  a  fertile  field  for  negotiations  and  pressure,  even 
though  several  political  appointments  were  made  to  the  Bureau  over 
his  veto.  Wheeler  would  never  give  up  any  area  of  his  personal  power 
even  for  his  cause.  For  he  had  identified  the  cause  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
League  wholly  with  himself.  Bishop  Cannon  later  wrote  that  Wheeler's 
policy  of  political  interference  and  personal  aggrandizement  under- 
mined the  real  power  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  brought  it  .into 
discredit  in  later  years.19  It  is  certainly  true  that  President  Coolidge 
did  not  sign  a  bill  to  put  the  Prohibition  Bureau  under  Civil  Service 
rules  until  the  year  of  Wheeler's  death. 

During  the  twenties,  the  Anti-Saloon  League  increased  its  power 
within  Congress,  and  Wheeler  increased  his  power  within  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League.  The  new  national  superintendent  of  the  League,  F. 
Scott  McBride,  gave  Wheeler  a  free  hand  in  Washington.  Meanwhile, 
in  the  elections  of  1922,  Wheeler  had  provoked  the  wets  into  declaring 
a  list  of  the  candidates  whom  they  were  supporting.  Such  a  deluge 
of  letters  poured  upon  the  endorsed  wet  candidates  that  many  of  them 
swore  to  Wheeler  that  they  were  dry,  and  repudiated  wet  support. 
Although  Volstead  lost  his  seat  in  Minnesota,  the  drys  increased  their 
count  in  the  House  to  296,  and  won  twenty-five  out  of  thirty-five  con- 
tests for  the  Senate.20 

During  the  next  two  years,  Congress  still  pussyfooted  over  the 
issue  of  prohibition.  While  the  newspapers  reported  that  the  law- 
enforcement  situation  was  steadily  growing  worse,  Congress  did  little 
to  increase  the  appropriations  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau.  $6,750,000 
was  voted  for  1923  and  $8,500,000  for  1924.  This  provided  for  a  field 
force  of  just  over  1500  agents  and  investigators  to  dry  up  a  nation 
whose  coast  line  and  border  were  18,700  miles  long,  whose  total  area 
was  more  than  3,000,000  square  miles,  and  whose  population  was  over 
105,000,000.21  The  statistics  made  each  prohibition  agent  responsible 
for  12  miles  of  border,  2000  square  miles  of  interior,  and  70,000  people. 
Of  course,  if  the  states  had  been  prepared  to  bear  their  share  of  en- 
forcement, matters  would  have  been  easier  for  the  Prohibition  Bureau. 
But  the  states  took  their  responsibility  under  the  phrase  "concurrent 
power"  to  mean  that  they  should  and  did  spend  one-quarter  of  the 
amount  on  enforcing  national  prohibition  that  they  spent  on  the  up- 
keep of  their  monuments  and  parks.22 

Proposals  were  made  in  1924  for  an  investigation  into  the  problems 
of  law  enforcement,  but  these  were  voted  down  by  the  dry  majority. 
Senator  Sheppard  characterized  an  investigation  as  worse  than  use- 
less, "a  waste  of  funds  and  energy  and  time."  The  Prohibition  Bureau 
should  not  be  investigated  but  given  a  vote  of  thanks.28  The  drys  in 

276  /   THE    DRY    TREE 

Congress  feared  that  an  impartial  investigation  under  the  auspices  of 
Congress  would  confirm  what  the  wet  press  trumpeted,  that  prohibi- 
tion was  not  and  could  not  be  enforced.  Until  there  was  such  an  im- 
partial investigation,  the  drys  could  dismiss  the  allegations  of  reporters 
as  biased  balderdash.  Meanwhile,  they  pursued  a  popular  policy  of 
government  economy,  moral  protestations,  and  lax  enforcement,  which 
satisfied  both  the  ears  of  the  drys  and  the  throats  of  the  wets.  Above 
all,  Congress  did  not  want  a  searching  examination  of  the  Prohibition 
Bureau,  since  it  might  reveal  how  political  appointments  had  made  the 
Bureau  into  a  corrupt  and  inefficient  institution. 

In  the  elections  of  1924,  with  the  Democratic  party  crippled  over  its 
internecine  struggle  over  prohibition  and  with  the  Republican  party 
bound  for  an  easy  victory,  the  drys  increased  their  three-to-one  major- 
ity in  both  houses  of  Congress.  This  time,  the  wets  published  a  list,  not 
of  those  they  supported,  but  of  those  they  opposed.  Five  out  of  six 
candidates  for  the  House  opposed  by  the  wets  were  elected.  Of  the 
thirteen  new  Senators  in  Congress,  eleven  favored  prohibition  legisla- 
tion. Wheeler  estimated  that  the  Senate  was  dry  by  72  to  24,  and  the 
house  by  319  to  105.24  He  counted  the  defeat  of  Senator  Stanley,  of 
Kentucky,  as  a  personal  victory.  The  Senator  had  attacked  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  on  the  floor  of  the  Senate,  and  Wheeler's  personal 
assistant  had  spent  seven  weeks  organizing  his  overthrow.26  "Each 
year,"  Wheeler  testified  complacently,  "the  Congress  that  has  been 
elected  has  been  drier  than  its  predecessor."26  Unfortunately,  each 
year  the  country  was  growing  wetter. 

Increasingly,  the  wet  minority  in  Congress  became  vocal  and  mili- 
tant Outside  Congress,  wealthy  wet  organizations  such  as  the  Associ- 
ation Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment  were  offering  statistics  and 
political  aid  to  champions  of  their  cause.  Fifty-nine  identical  bills  to 
provide  for  the  sale  of  light  wines  and  beer  were  introduced  in  Con- 
gress; all  came  to  grief  in  the  dry  House  Committee  on  the  Judiciary. 
Although  the  wets  were  powerless  in  Congress,  their  complaints  be- 
came more  and  more  publicized.  Moreover,  the  dry  majority  in  the 
House  continued  its  policy  of  letting  sleeping  bootleggers  lie  by  fail- 
ing to  increase  appropriations  for  law  enforcement  to  any  great  de- 
gree. The  sums  appropriated  for  the  years  between  1924  and  1926 
averaged  $9,310,000  a  year.  The  lack  of  proper  prohibition  enforce- 
ment was  blamed  on  the  Prohibition  Bureau,  which  was  reorganized 
time  and  time  again.  But  little  was  done  to  improve  the  poor  quality 
of  its  agents,  whose  appointment  was  largely  in  the  hands  of  that  very 
same  dry  majority  in  Congress. 

Congress  showed  its  temper  by  its  treatment  of  the  program  of  the 
new  head  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau,  General  Lincoln  C.  Andrews. 


Wheeler  had  not  been  consulted  about  Andrews's  appointment  in 
April,  1925,  and  he  disliked  his  exclusion.  The  efforts  of  Andrews  to 
replace  political  appointees  in  the  Bureau  with  retired  Army  and  Navy 
officers  brought  a  rebuke  from  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  Mellon,  re- 
quiring Andrews  to  consult  members  of  Congress  before  making  new 
appointments  to  the  Bureau.  In  his  report  to  the  executive  committee 
of  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  Wheeler  wrote,  "Political  leaders  in  the 
various  states  will  resent  the  idea  that  their  directors  should  be  re- 
moved. It  will  interfere  with  political  patronage."27  Andrews  antagon- 
ized the  government,  Congress,  and  Wheeler  by  his  sincere  efforts  to 
get  effective  enforcement. 

In  1926,  Andrews  proposed  to  Congress  that  the  Prohibition  Bureau 
should  come  under  Civil  Service  rules,  and  should  be  given  an  in- 
creased appropriation  of  $3,000,000  a  year.  It  should  also  have  more 
control  over  medicinal  liquor,  industrial  alcohol,  and  breweries  which 
ostensibly  manufactured  near-beer.  It  should  be  given  authority  to 
board  ships  outside  the  twelve-mile  limit,  to  confiscate  captured  ves- 
sels, and  to  search  private  homes  on  suspicion  of  commercial  manu- 
facture.28 None  of  these  recommendations  was  passed  by  Congress 
until  Andrews  had  been  forced  to  resign  by  Mellon  because  of  grow- 
ing disaffection  with  that  law  enforcement  which  he  was  not  allowed 
to  reform. 

But  Congressional  rebellion  against  Wheeler  and  the  dry  lobbies 
had  already  begun  in  1926,  the  very  year  that  Wheeler's  superhuman 
labors  made  him  a  sick  man  and  kept  him  sick  until  his  death  two 
years  later.  This  rebellion  suddenly  became  public,  although  it  had 
always  smoldered  in  private.  The  appointment  of  the  wet  leader 
Senator  James  Reed,  of  Missouri,  to  a  subcommittee  of  the  Senate 
Committee  on  the  Judiciary  was  the  beginning  of  the  congressional 
counterattack  on  the  Anti-Saloon  League.  Congress  had  been  humili- 
ated too  often  by  the  League  to  treat  its  enemy  lightly. 

The  private  rebellion  of  Congress  against  prohibition  was  the  pri- 
vate rebellion  of  drinkers  all  over  the  nation.  In  this  way,  the  rebellion 
at  Washington  can  be  excused.  For,  although  it  was  unconstitutional,  it 
was  truly  representative.  Like  the  public,  members  of  both  houses  of 
Congress  voted  dry  and  drank  wet.  If  there  was  no  hypocrisy  in  their 
attitude,  there  was  a  fine  distinction  drawn  between  public  and  private 
belief.  Some  drys  even  defended  such  behavior  as  a  sign  of  the  good 
practical  politician.  It  demonstrated,  according  to  them,  the  strength 
of  prohibition.29 

And  they  were  right.  When  a  private  habit  cannot  be  made  public 
by  politicians,  it  is  because  they  are  truly  afraid  to  speak.  Fear  of  the 
Ajiti-Saloon  League  made  a  monstrous  conspiracy  of  silence  descend 

278  /  THE    DRY    TREE 

upon  the  national  capital.  An  article  in  the  Washington  Post  of  1928, 
quoted  by  Senator  Blease,  of  Arkansas,  claimed  that  there  were  nearly 
a  thousand  speak-easies  in  the  city.30  A  new  art  had  been  discovered 
there,  "the  art  of  sotto  voce  in  little  back  rooms/'  These  speak-easies 
were  not  molested,  as  the  powers-that-be  wished  for  them  to  let 

Yet,  however  discreet  the  politicians  were,  they  provided  evidence 
enough  of  their  defiance  of  the  law  which  they  were  sworn  to  uphold. 
Conditions  in  Washington  under  the  presidency  of  Harding  were 
notorious.  The  Ohio  Gang  openly  peddled  bootleg  liquor  from  1625  K 
Street.  The  liquor  was  brought  there  in  plain  view  by  agents  of  the 
Department  of  Justice;  it  was  liquor  which  had  been  confiscated  by 
the  Prohibition  Bureau.  Coolidge's  succession  on  Harding's  death  did 
something,  however,  to  clean  up  the  blatant  scandals  in  the  capital. 
The  President's  personal  abstinence  made  the  congressional  drinkers 
less  loud  about  their  practices.  Even  those  who  made  a  profession  of 
their  wet  beliefs,  such  as  George  Tinkham  and  Nicholas  Longworth, 
did  their  drinking  privately,  although  Tinkham  kept  on  the  walls  of 
his  office  a  collection  of  wild  beasts'  heads  named  after  the  dry  lead- 
ers. It  was  perhaps  unfortunate  that  the  most  convinced  dry  of  all 
the  Presidents,  Herbert  Hoover,  was  in  power  during  the  chief  expos6 
of  high  life  in  Washington. 

Mabel  Walker  Willebrandt,  Assistant  Attorney  General  in  1929, 
wrote  about  the  Inside  of  Prohibition.  According  to  her,  many  Con- 
gressmen and  Senators  who  voted  dry  were  persistent  violators  of  the 
Volstead  Act.  Senators  and  Representatives  had  appeared  drunk  on 
the  floor  of  the  Senate  and  House.  A  waiter  had  dropped  a  bottle  of 
whisky  on  the  floor  of  the  Capitol  Restaurant.  Nothing  had  done  more 
to  disgust  honest  men  and  women  against  prohibition.  Why,  Mrs. 
Willebrandt  demanded,  had  no  search  warrants  ever  been  issued  to 
rout  bootleggers  out  of  government  buildings?  One  agent  had  applied 
for  such  a  warrant,  and  been  refused  it.  This  was,  surely,  bad  law  and 
bad  policy. 

Mrs.  Willebrandt  discovered  a  curious  state  of  mind  among  mem- 
bers of  Congress  and  other  government  officials.  They  believed  that 
they  were  "above  and  beyond  the  inhibitions  of  the  prohibition  law."82 
One  Congressman  had  been  sentenced  for  conspiring  to  sell  and  trans- 
port liquor  on  fraudulent  permits.88  Another  had  been  found  "not 
guilty"  by  a  jury,  although  he  had  in  his  possession  "nonintoxicating" 
wine  containing  12  per  cent  of  alcohol.84  Other  Congressmen  re- 
quested "freedom  of  the  port"  from  the  Treasury  Department,  and 
they  landed  their  luggage  unchecked  by  Customs.  On  one  famous 
occasion,  the  baggage  of  a  dry  Congressman  from  Illinois  went  astray 


and  was  found  to  contain  a  keg  of  rum  and  twelve  bottles  of  liqueurs. 
On  another  occasion,  a  Congressman  from  Ohio  was  discovered  with 
booze  in  his  baggage  on  a  return  trip  from  Panama.  Although  juries 
were  lenient  to  these  two  offenders,  who  swore  that  the  contrabrand 
was  not  theirs  but  another's,  Mrs.  Willebrandt  and  the  grand  jury  of 
the  Southern  District  of  New  York  thought  that  "public  officials  should 
be  the  first  to  set  the  example  of  scrupulous  acceptance  and  observ- 
ance of  the  burdens  of  the  law."85 

The  final  denouement,  which  would  have  shattered  the  last  pre- 
tensions of  dry  Washington,  was  fortunately  suppressed.  When  the 
Senate  Lobby  Investigation  Committee  seized  the  complete  secret 
files  of  the  Association  Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment  in  1930, 
they  found  a  confidential  report  of  the  private  drinking  habits  of 
members  of  Congress.36  The  report  was  never  made  public.  As  the 
Outlook  commented,  "Dry  members  of  the  Senate  Lobby  Committee 
welched  very  prettily  when  it  came  to  a  genuine  showdown."37 

The  record  of  the  behavior  of  members  of  Congress  during  prohibi- 
tion is  a  nasty  one.  Many  of  them  were  dry  in  public  speech  and  wet 
in  private  life.  Many  of  them  were  whipped  onto  the  prohibitionist 
side  solely  from  fear  of  the  influence  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  at  the 
polls.  Many  of  them  were  content  to  appropriate  too  little  money  for 
law  enforcement,  and  then  to  denounce  the  evils  of  that  inadequate 
enforcement.  Many  hoped  that  if  they  glossed  over  the  problems  of 
prohibition  the  problems  would  somehow  disappear  of  themselves. 
Many  wanted  the  appearance  of  morality,  not  the  fact.  Many  echoed 
the  personal  habits  of  a  Harding  and  the  political  quiescence  of  a 


IF  PROHIBITION  made  difficult  the  congressional  and  private  lives  of  the 
representatives  of  the  people,  it  also  caused  havoc  to  their  electoral 
machinations.  In  1926,  Senator  Reed,  of  Missouri,  and  four  other 
Senators  were  directed  by  the  Senate  to  investigate  abuses  in  certain 
primary  campaigns  during  the  senatorial  elections.  This  subcommittee 
turned  up  an  extraordinary  brew  of  corruption  and  crookery.  As  a  con- 
sequence of  its  findings,  William  Vare,  of  Pennsylvania,  and  Frank  L. 
Smith,  of  Illinois,  were  unseated  by  the  Senate.  Further  evidence 
showed  that  the  Ku  Klux  Klan  had  partially  taken  over  the  government 
of  Indiana,  and  that  copper  companies  were  trying  to  take  over  the 
administration  of  Arizona.  Only  in  Washington,  where  the  dry  Senator 
Wesley  Jones  had  alleged  that  his  Democratic  opponent  was  using  a 
slush  fund  of  $150,000  donated  by  bootleggers,  did  the  investigation 

280   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

discover  that  the  charges  were  smears.  The  findings  of  the  subcom- 
mittee are  the  most  damning  indictment  of  American  democracy  ever 
produced,  and  are  also  a  searchlight  on  the  corrupt  politics  which  the 
dry  and  the  wet  lobbies  encouraged  in  their  struggle  over  prohibition. 

Reed  strained  his  powers  as  chairman  of  the  subcommittee  to  seize 
the  secret  files  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League.  He  tried  to  prove  that  the 
League  had  interfered  with  the  processes  of  democracy  in  Pennsyl- 
vania. But  all  he  revealed  was  that  the  League  had  little  real  power  in 
Pennsylvania  at  all.  The  Republicans  were  in  such  control  of  the  state 
that  victory  in  the  primary  there  meant  election  to  the  Senate.  Un- 
fortunately, the  Republican  machine  had  fallen  out  with  itself,  and 
a  three-cornered  fight  for  the  senatorial  nomination  had  developed. 
Vare,  the  boss  of  Philadelphia,  ran  on  a  wet  ticket  calling  for  legal 
light  wines  and  beer.  The  incumbent  Senator  Pepper,  backed  by  die 
powerful  Mellon  interests,  ran  on  a  middle-of-the-road  ticket,  appeal- 
ing to  both  wets  and  drys.  And  the  state  Governor,  Gifford  Pinchot, 
ran  on  an  extreme  dry  ticket,  backed  by  neither  city  machines  nor 
billions  of  dollars. 

The  result  of  the  election  was  that  the  Mellons  elected  their  candi- 
date for  Governor  and  Vare  elected  himself  as  Senator.  Pinchot  ran 
well  behind  Vare  and  Pepper  in  the  primary.  He  could  not  even  get  all 
the  dry  "decent  vote"  behind  him,  for  both  Anti-Saloon  League  and 
Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union  were  split  between  voting  for 
him  and  voting  for  Pepper,  whom  Vare's  manager  called  "dry  in  the 
east  and  wet  in  the  west  .  .  .  wobbling  from  one  side  to  the  other, 
trying  to  dip  in  and  get  a  little  from  both  sides/'88  Although  all  the 
speak-easies  and  brothels  in  Pittsburgh  displayed  prominent  signs 
asking  their  patrons  to  vote  for  Pepper,  the  dry  lobbies  did  not  con- 
demn him.89  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  testified  that  the  League  had  been 
split  between  Pepper,  who  "voted  right,"  and  Pinchot,  who  was  "very 
aggressive  on  prohibition  and  its  enforcement."  In  the  end,  the  League 
put  out  a  statement  asking  "all  friends  of  good  government  to  concen- 
trate their  vote  on  that  one  of  the  two  satisfactory  candidates  who  has 
the  best  chance  to  defeat  Mr.  Vare."  This  split  dry  vote  was  the  reason 
that  the  drys,  in  Wheeler's  words,  "got  licked."40 

In  fact,  the  leading  organization  of  the  wets,  the  Association  Against 
the  Prohibition  Amendment,  came  out  of  the  election  far  worse  than 
the  Anti-Saloon  League,  whose  equivocal  and  unilateral  methods  of 
endorsing  candidates  it  had  adopted.  A  letter  was  sent  to  the  30,000 
members  of  the  Pennsylvania  Association  asking  them  to  support  Vare. 
The  letter  said  that  Pinchot,  who  was  an  honest  and  good  reformer, 
had  "intellectual  affinities  that  did  not  justify  anybody  in  supporting 
him  for  a  dignified  office";  that  Pepper,  although  a  good  citizen,  lacked 


"moral  courage"  and  voted  dry;  and  that  Vare,  although  associated 
with  a  corrupt  machine  in  Philadelphia,  did  possess  "moral  courage" 
and  should  be  supported.41  It  was  a  choice  among  evils  for  the  wets, 
but  Vare  was  the  least  of  the  three  evils.  Like  the  dry  lobbies,  the  wet 
lobbies  would  vote  for  any  supporter,  however  bad,  against  any  op- 
ponent, however  good.  Prohibition  was  the  sole  judge  of  their  "moral 
courage"  and  fitness  to  represent  their  fellows. 

In  the  Illinois  election,  however,  the  League  came  out  of  the  investi- 
gation in  a  worse  light  than  the  Association.  The  League  had  success- 
fully supported  the  nomination  of  Frank  L.  Smith  in  the  Republican 
primary.  After  the  primary,  Smith  was  proved  to  have  accepted  a  sum 
of  at  least  $125,000  from  the  public  utilities  magnate  of  the  Midwest, 
Samuel  Insull.  His  Democratic  opponent,  George  E.  Brennan,  was  a 
Chicago  boss  and  a  wet.  Thus  the  contest  appeared  to  be  one  between 
business  corruption  and  the  corruption  of  prohibition.  But  at  the  last 
moment,  a  dry  Independent  candidate,  Hugh  S.  Magill,  announced  his 
candidacy  in  the  name  of  good  government  and  honest  law  enforce- 
ment. He  asked  for  the  support  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League  and  its 
mailing  list  of  125,000  voters.  Yet  the  League  stuck  to  Smith.  As  the 
state  superintendent  of  the  League,  George  Safford,  testified,  the 
League  felt  forced  to  choose  between  the  two  major  party  candidates, 
since  the  Independent  Magill  did  not  have  a  chance  of  winning.  The 
League's  attitude  was  that  of  the  Reverend  John  Williams  of  the 
Methodist  Episcopal  Church,  "I  will  hold  my  nose  and  vote  for 
Smith."42  Indeed,  the  League  tried  to  persuade  Magill  to  withdraw 
and  accused  his  supporters  of  wanting  a  wet  victory,  for  his  candidacy 
would  split  the  dry  vote  and  let  Brennan  win.  This  attitude  provoked 
from  Magill  the  declaration  that  he  would  "never  take  dictation  from 
Wayne  Wheeler  or  Scott  McBride  or  George  Safford,  because  by  their 
actions  in  this  case  they  have  demonstrated  to  the  Nation  that  they 
are  absolutely  unfit  to  advise,  much  less,  dictate  to  the  decent  people 
of  Illinois  and  the  Nation."48 

The  scandals  in  Pennsylvania  and  Illinois  did  harm  to  the  League 
and  the  Association  Against  the  Prohibition  Amendment.  It  showed 
that  both  put  their  cause  above  the  cause  of  reform  and  good  govern- 
ment In  addition,  it  showed  that  their  support  was  often  ineffective. 
For  neither  in  Pennsylvania  nor  in  Illinois  did  the  League  and  the 
Association  mean  much.  It  was  money  and  machine  support  that 
counted.  The  two  radical  diys,  Pinchot  and  Magill,  both  came  last 
in  the  polls  by  a  large  margin.  A  labor  leader  testified  in  Pennsylvania, 
"When  the  two  extremely  rich  men  got  into  a  fuss,  then  it  was  a 
choice  of  the  two  evils."44  In  estimating  the  real  source  of  each  candi- 
date's strength,  the  dry  and  wet  factor  sank  into  insignificance.45  In 

282   /THE    DRY    TREE 

fact,  the  true  manipulator  of  elections  was  the  hidden  hand  of  big 
business  and  criminal  interests,  which  often  worked  together.  As  an 
oil  and  mining  operator  told  the  state  superintendent  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  in  Arizona,  "You  can't  do  anything  out  here;  this  is  a 
campaign  for  the  big  boys  .  .  .  Little  tiddle-de-winks  folks  like  the 
Anti-Saloon  League  couldn't  buck  that  sort  of  game."46 

The  conditions  prevalent  under  prohibition  made  it  easier  for  big 
business  men  and  criminals  to  co-operate  and  interfere  in  elections.  A 
general  tolerance  of  the  bootlegger  and  a  disrespect  for  federal  law 
were  translated  into  a  widespread  contempt  for  the  processes  and 
duties  of  democracy.  This  played  into  the  hands  of  those  who  wished 
to  elect  their  own  agents  to  positions  of  power.  A  vice  president  of  the 
American  Federation  of  Labor  told  the  Wickersham  Commission, 
'There  is  a  feeling  of  corruption,  of  everything  being  corrupt,  and  it 
is  bringing  itself  into  the  trade-unions.  They  feel  if  a  judge  can  be 
bought  for  liquor,  he  can  be  bought  for  anything  else;  if  a  police 
officer  can  be  quieted  by  a  little  money  for  liquor,  he  can  be  quieted 
for  something  else."47  It  was  the  profits  and  power  derived  from  pro- 
tection rackets  and  bootlegging  that  gave  the  gangsters  the  gall  to 
interfere  flagrantly  at  elections.  The  Reed  Committee  discovered  that 
gunmen  had  openly  run  the  polls  at  the  election  of  1924  in  Cicero, 
Illinois,  the  headquarters  of  Al  Capone.  They  found  out  that  the 
Chicago  election  judges  and  clerks  were,  in  the  testimony  of  one 
witness,  "ex-convicts,  confirmed  criminals,  disreputable  men."48  Mean- 
while, in  Indiana,  the  backers  of  the  moist  Senator  Watson  were  boot- 
leggers who  were  "forced  at  the  point  of  a  gun"  by  the  police  to 
contribute  to  his  campaign.  In  addition,  in  Lake  County,  Indiana, 
there  were  "a  large  number  of  sluggers  .  .  .  from  Chicago,  who  went 
from  one  polling  booth  to  another,  intimidating  voters.  They  had  at 
every  polling  place  .  .  .  polling  officers  favorable  to  the  Watson 

Indeed,  if  the  dry  lobbies  put  through  prohibition  under  the  theory 
that  they  were  saving  good  government  in  America  from  the  mon- 
strous conspiracies  of  the  liquor  trade,  they  did  not  realize  that  they 
were  delivering  politics  into  the  far  worse  hands  of  the  bootleggers, 
fraudulent  businessmen,  and  criminals.  The  use  of  sub-machine  guns 
and  bombs  in  elections  was  a  result  of  the  impudence  of  small-time 
crooks  and  big-time  politicians,  who  thought  themselves  great  from 
the  profits  of  prohibition.  It  was  the  unlimited  opportunities  for  graft 
as  well  as  prosperity  that  made  the  America  of  the  twenties  seem  such 
a  rich  and  careless  place.  Clive  Weed  drew  rightly  in  Judge  the  hand 
behind  the  back,  waiting  for  the  bribe  as  "The  National  Gesture."  But 
few  cared.  The  scandals  of  the  Harding  regime  were  not  enough  to 

By  dive  Weed  in  Judge 


bring  down  the  Republican  party;  they  only  served  to  confirm  the 
Grand  Old  Party  in  power.  Mass  unemployment  was  the  shock  that 
made  bribery  and  dirty  business  seem  a  shameful  way  of  depriving 
the  needy  of  the  money  and  the  jobs  which  were  their  due. 

The  last  service  of  the  Reed  Committee  was  to  reveal  the  most 
sinister  element  of  all  in  American  politics,  the  Ku  Klux  Klan,  which 
had  appointed  itself  in  many  American  states  as  an  unofficial  dry 

284   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

enforcement  agency  as  well  as  a  political  pressure  group.  Because  of 
a  split  in  the  Klan  in  Indiana,  many  disgruntled  Klansmen  were  pre- 
pared to  break  their  horrific  oath  of  secrecy  and  to  reveal  the  work- 
ings of  the  organization  there.  The  split  was  caused  by  the  use  of  the 
Klan  as  an  out-and-out  political  agency  rather  than  as  a  "Christian, 
benevolent,  fraternal  organization  —  principles  that  the  Klan  stood 
for/**  The  leader  of  the  political  Klan  machine,  as  a  prohibition  agent 
testified,  was  guilty  of  throwing  drunken  orgies  in  his  own  home,  while 
some  of  the  local  Klan  leaders  had  been  convicted  of  preserving  the 
purity  of  American  women  by  trying  to  rape  them.  Indeed,  the  reputa- 
tion of  the  Klan  in  Indiana  had  become  so  noisome  that  its  member- 
ship had  dropped  to  one-quarter  of  its  former  numbers.  However 
stupid  the  Klansmen  were,  they  had  joined  the  Klan  for  a  moral  pur- 
pose, however  mistaken,  and  would  not  tolerate  the  misbehavior  of 
their  leaders.  As  an  evangelical  minister  said,  **We  have  had  some 
good  men  in  the  Klan.  They  are  not  staying  by  it  now."50 

Prohibition  added  lobbies  to  legislatures,  corruption  to  corrupt  poli- 
tics, and  conspiracies  to  democratic  practice.  The  drys  became,  often 
enough,  the  unwitting  whitewash  on  a  rotting  sepulcher.  Indeed,  the 
rackets  which  their  moral  legislation  encouraged  made  that  very  moral 
legislation  seem  a  racket  in  itself.  Some  of  the  chiefs  of  the  gangs 
contributed  to  the  dry  movement  and  employed  as  fronts  "Bible- 
backed"  citizens.  These  employees  were  referred  to  as  "amen  racket- 

If  great  parties  are  fearful  of  offending,  if  Congresses  care  overmuch 
for  economy  and  the  electorate,  if  elections  are  often  corrupt  and 
nasty  affairs,  then  prohibition  increased  the  fear  and  the  care  and  the 
nastiness  of  politics  in  its  time.  The  Anti-Saloon  League  and  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment  appeared  to  be  permanent  and  implacable 
features  in  American  life.  Under  their  banner,  the  country  took  heart, 
and  rallied  in  the  presidential  election  of  1928,  when  the  farm  boy 
from  Iowa  beat  the  slum  child  from  New  York. 

*  The  ignorance  and  social  class  upon  which  the  Klan  thrived  is  shown  by  some 
revealing  remarks  in  the  testimony  of  an  Exalted  Grand  Cyclops  of  the  Order.  He 
said  that  the  Grand  Wizard  of  the  Klan,  Doctor  Evans,  "could  almost  convince  the 
average  Klansman  that  we  had  in  the  State  of  Indiana  that  Jesus  Christ  was  not  a 
Jew."  Doctor  Evans  had  also  been  asked  why  the  Klansmen  did  not  parade  with 
their  hoods  raised;  he  had  replied,  "The  morale  of  the  Klan  would  kill  itself." 


Last  Victory 


I'd  rather  see  a  saloon  on  every  corner  in  the  South  than 
see  the  foreigners  elect  Al  Smith  President. 


God  is  still  greater  than  Tammany.  For  if  Al  Smith  is 
elected  in  November  the  Democratic  Party  with  its  heritage 
of  glorious  principles  becomes  the  party  of  Rome  and  Rum 
for  the  next  hundred  years. 


THE  INTERACTING  roots  of  prohibition,  the  psychology  of  country 
and  rural  reform,  the  progressive  temper  of  die  times,  the  support 
of  the  middle  classes  and  women,  the  social  influence  of  the  Protestant 
evangelical  churches,  and  the  particularism  of  the  South  were  begin- 
ning to  wither  and  separate  in  the  twenties.  But  the  presidential  elec- 
tion of  1928  brought  them  together  again  briefly  and  powerfully.  The 
threat  of  Alfred  E.  Smith  in  the  White  House  combined  against  him 
many  of  those  nativist,  reform,  and  reactionary  elements  which  had 
opposed  the  saloon  as  the  home  of  rum  and  Rome. 

By  the  end  of  the  Great  War,  more  people  earned  their  living  in  a 
factory  than  on  the  land.  In  1919,  farmers  had  only  16  per  cent  of  the 
national  income;  by  1929,  only  9  per  cent.  Yet  they  were  increasingly 
conditioned  by  advertising  to  desire  the  cash  goods  of  the  city,  elec- 
trical appliances,  automobiles,  radios,  smart  clothes.  Meanwhile,  the 
howl  of  derision  from  the  cities  at  the  country's  expense  grew  and 
grew.  The  attacks  of  Edgar  Lee  Masters  on  small-town  life  in  Spoon 
River  Anthology,  of  Sherwood  Anderson  in  Winesbur g,  Ohio,  and  of 
Sinclair  Lewis  in  Main  Street  were  nothing  to  the  persecution  and 
baiting  of  H.  L.  Mencken  and  his  hounds.  As  Walter  Lippmann  wrote 
in  1926,  Mencken  was  "the  pope  of  popes/'  the  most  powerful  personal 
influence  on  his  whole  generation  of  educated  people.1  His  chief  target 
was  country  prejudices,  which  he  answered  with  six  volumes  of  his 
own.  To  him,  the  South  was  the  Sahara  of  the  Bozart,  the  small  town 


286   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

the  home  of  the  boobery  and  the  booboisie,  and  country  Methodism  a 
theology  degraded  almost  to  the  level  of  voodooism.  Prohibition  was 
the  result  of  the  spite  of  envious  yokels  who  wanted  to  force  the  city 
dwellers  to  drink  the  revolting  mixtures  of  the  farm.  In  a  nation  where 
Mencken  was  considered  an  intellectual  leader,  the  country  and  small 
town  were  held  beneath  contempt. 

The  rural  crusades  of  the  twenties  did  much  to  increase  the  city's 
ridicule  of  the  rube  and  the  hick.  Prohibition,  the  Ku  Klux  Klan,  and 
the  campaign  against  the  teaching  of  evolution  were  unfortunate  and 
tragic  causes.  They  were  the  sad  remnants  of  what  had  once  been  a 
fine  frenzy  for  a  republic  of  small  farmers,  a  New  World  of  husband- 
men to  redress  the  balance  of  the  Old  World  of  dwellers  in  Sodom. 
When  the  witty  apostles  of  urban  life,  Clarence  Darrow  and  H.  L. 
Mencken,  mocked  the  balding  and  corpulent  old  countryman,  Wil- 
liam Jennings  Bryan,  at  the  Scopes  trial  of  1925,  they  showed  a  pride 
and  complacency  and  vindictiveness  as  mean  as  the  bias  of  a  dry 
fundamentalist.  If  the  declining  country  had  a  paranoiac  fear  of  the 
growing  city,  the  city  replied,  despite  its  boasted  superiority,  with  an 
equally  vicious  counterattack  on  the  beliefs  of  the  small  town.  Thus 
the  farm  belt  of  America  was  pressured  into  an  even  greater  fear  of 
urban  power,  which  made  it  find  a  suitable  hero  and  villain  in  the 
contest  between  Hoover  and  Smith. 

Moreover,  the  country  drys  found  themselves  abandoned  by  some 
of  their  early  supporters.  The  progressives  became  weak  in  the  twen- 
ties, and  lost  much  of  their  appeal.  They  suffered  from  the  nationwide 
disgust  which  the  antics  of  the  drys  gave  to  the  name  of  reform.  The 
drys  themselves,  by  being  successful  with  their  legal  victory,  were 
damned  with  the  curse  of  trying  to  enforce  the  unenforceable  and  the 
unpopular.  And  when  the  women  of  America  received  the  vote  with 
the  Nineteenth  Amendment,  they  proceeded  to  put  their  new  privilege 
to  little  significant  use.  The  millennium  promised  by  woman  suffrage 
was  no  more  real  than  the  millenniums  of  the  referendum  and  the 
recall  and  national  prohibition.  When  the  three  movements  had  come 
to  their  apogee,  the  sins  of  society  remained  much  the  same.  The 
revolution  in  America  was  mechanical  rather  than  spiritual,  a  meta- 
morphosis of  organization  and  mass  rather  than  a  return  to  the  myth 
of  America's  rural  youth.  "The  founder  of  the  oil  trust  may  give  us 
back  our  money,"  a  dry  progressive  had  lamented,  "but  not  if  he 
send  among  us  a  hundred  Wesleys  can  he  give  us  back  the  lost 
ideals/'2  In  this  disillusion,  the  reformers  blamed  each  other  and 
split  apart. 

Not  only  did  the  reformers  split  apart,  but  they  became  openly 
hostile  to  each  other.  The  progressives  were  disillusioned  about  their 

LAST    VICTORY/  287 

procedures  for  increased  democracy,  which  only  seemed  to  place 
political  power  more  firmly  in  the  hands  of  the  party  bosses,  and  about 
the  increased  power  of  the  federal  government,  which  was  used  by 
conservative  Republican  Presidents  to  buttress  the  power  of  the  trusts 
rather  than  to  regulate  them.  In  the  reaction  from  the  misused  powers 
of  centralization,  the  old  progressives  tended  to  become  the  new 
liberals,  more  concerned  with  protecting  the  rights  of  individuals 
against  federal  coercion  than  with  protecting  human  rights  through 
the  intervention  of  the  government.  Moreover,  the  determinism  im- 
plicit in  the  current  doctrines  of  Darwinism  and  Marxism  and  Freud- 
ianism  made  the  reformers  look  upon  their  own  motives  for  reform 
with  suspicion.  When  Ben  Hecht  said,  "To  hell  with  Sigmund,  he's 
corrupted  immorality,"  he  should  have  added  that  Freud  had  also 
corrupted  morality,3  The  fine  crusading  drive  of  the  progressives  gave 
way  to  that  moral  relativism  which  swept  through  the  United  States 
in  the  twenties.  The  attack  on  the  evils  of  society  was  turned  into  an 
attack  on  those  men  who  saw  the  evils  of  others  without  looking  into 
their  own. 

Moreover,  many  American  women  took  their  emancipation  literally. 
They  thought  that  freedom  meant  liberty  to  do  what  men  did.  As  a 
woman  writer  had  warned  in  1917,  "Women  will  drink,  smoke,  bet, 
swear,  gamble,  just  as  men  do.  Whether  they  like  it  or  not,  does  not 
matter:  men  do  these  things,  therefore  women  must,  to  show  that  they 
are  as  good  as  men/'4  The  old  concept  of  the  drys,  that  a  woman's  vote 
would  be  a  dry  vote,  was  shattered.  Women  took  to  the  speak-easy 
like  ducks  to  water.  They  set  up  a  rival  image  to  the  sober  example  of 
the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union,  an  image  under  which 
women  were  supposed  to  drink  and  make  drink  to  prove  their  equality 
with  men.  The  muckraking  feminist,  Ida  M.  Tarbell,  was  forced  to 
admit,  "Where  fashion  points,  women  follow.  They  set  up  bars  in  their 
homes,  boast  of  their  bootleggers  and  their  brews,  tolerate  and  prac- 
tice a  looseness  of  tongue  and  manner  once  familiar  only  in  saloons 
and  brothels."5  Under  prohibition,  the  sight  of  women  drinking  in 
public  became  normal  and  respectable  in  large  cities.  Prohibition  even 
provided  a  means  for  the  economic  emancipation  of  the  female  sex. 
The  story  was  told,  in  the  Wickersham  Report,  of  a  widow  whose 
neighbors  took  up  a  collection  to  buy  her  a  still  and  set  her  up  in 

The  prohibitionists,  by  their  success,  turned  themselves  from  radi- 
cals into  reactionaries.  "We  had  to  give  America  prohibition  so  the 
people  could  see  exactly  what  it  was,"  said  one  dry  leader.  "Now  we 
will  make  them  like  it"7  By  concentrating  on  their  one  particular  re- 
form, as  Susan  B.  Anthony  had  recommended  to  the  suffragettes,  the 

288   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

drys  had  largely  disassociated  themselves  from  other  reformers.  The 
Anti-Saloon  League  had  always  sought  after  a  single  object,  the  aboli- 
tion of  the  liquor  trade;  the  Woman's  Christian  Temperance  Union 
had  followed  its  example  after  the  turn  of  the  century,  dropping  its 
general  reform  program  to  concentrate  utterly  upon  prohibition.  The 
decline  of  the  progressives  and  of  the  Progressive  party  in  the  twen- 
ties, and  the  dissolution  of  the  Woman's  party  after  the  Nineteenth 
Amendment,  left  the  prohibitionists  and  the  Ku  Klux  Klan  as  the  sole 
representatives  of  a  great  rural  and  urban  reform  wave  that  had 
changed  the  Constitution  and  the  laws  of  a  nation.  The  drys  and  the 
Klansmen  were  the  hideous  ghosts  of  a  noble  past,  squatting  in  the 
new  Eldorado  of  the  twenties  that  had  forgotten  the  morality  which 
had  once  given  the  ghosts  flesh.  Indeed,  the  victory  of  the  drys 
throughout  the  twenties  seemed  to  be  a  proof  of  the  lasting  malice  of 
the  early  reformers,  rather  than  of  their  good  intentions. 

The  monstrous  dry  bones  of  their  past  crusades  led  the  progressives 
to  deny  the  excesses  of  the  leaders  of  prohibition.  Although  the  old 
progressives  in  the  Senate  under  La  Follette  supported  prohibition  on 
the  whole,  their  support  was  all  for  the  theory  rather  than  the  practice. 
They  deplored  the  fanaticism  which  the  issue  of  prohibition  had 
brought  to  public  life.  The  endorsement  of  political  hacks  by  wets  and 
drys  exclusive  of  any  considerations  of  good  government,  and  the  use 
of  the  Prohibition  Bureau  as  a  political  pork  barrel,  deeply  offended 
the  old  progressives.  National  prohibition,  as  administered  by  the 
Republican  government  and  the  Anti-Saloon  League,  was  a  national 
disgrace.  When  the  progressive  George  W.  Norris  wrote  his  auto- 
biography in  1925,  he  called  it  Fighting  Liberal  His  judgment  on 
prohibition  reflected  the  alienation  of  progressives  and  moderates  from 
the  dry  leaders: 

I  have  been  an  abstainer  throughout  my  life.  I  believe  that  temper- 
ance is  the  only  rule  of  life.  Yet  on  both  sides  of  this  issue  are  pro- 
hibitionists supporting  a  prohibitionist,  regardless  of  how  he  may  stand 
on  any  other  governmental  question,  and  wet  bigots,  narrow-minded 
enough  to  support  a  man  opposed  to  prohibition  regardless  of  how  he 
may  stand  on  other  questions.  I  am  sorry  that  these  things  exist.8 

The  South  and  the  West  remained  true  to  the  drys,  but  in  such  a 
way  as  to  damn  their  cause  by  bad  publicity.  The  crusade  of  the  Ku 
Klux  Klan  and  the  fundamentalists  in  the  twenties  brought  out  the 
worst  in  rural  manners.9  The  Ku  Klux  Klan  had  been,  in  some  ways,  a 
respectable  resistance  movement  against  the  carpetbaggers  after  the 
Civil  War;  in  its  revived  form,  it  was  a  pitiful  expression  of  the  preju- 
dices and  assumptions  that  underlay  the  usual  attitudes  of  the 

LAST    VICTORY/  289 

country.  The  Klan  satisfied  the  small-town  urge  towards  regalia  and 
secret  societies;  the  hooded  Kleagle  or  Klaliff  of  the  Great  Forest  could 
easily  believe  that  the  Jews  of  Wall  Street  or  the  Knights  of  Columbus 
were  engaged  on  a  similar  political  conspiracy.  A  plot  creates  its  own 
counterplot  in  its  imagination.  The  prejudices  of  the  small  town 
against  liquor,  prostitutes,  divorce,  Roman  Catholics,  aliens,  Reds, 
Jews,  Negroes,  Darwinism,  modernism,  and  liberalism  were  excellent 
ground  for  commercial  exploiters  of  hate.  For  an  initiation  fee  of  ten 
dollars,  these  salesmen  of  unreason  gave  the  bigoted  members  of  the 
majority  group  the  organized  luxury  of  hating  the  monstrous  sub- 
version of  the  minority  groups  around  them.10 

Harry  Herschel  has  defined  a  majority  group  as  a  minority  group 
careless  with  its  membership.  It  was  lucky  that  the  Klan  and  the 
fundamentalists  never  became  more  than  minority  groups,  although 
they  claimed  that  they  were  the  moral  champions  of  the  majority  of 
white,  Protestant,  native-born  Americans.  The  fear  of  their  success 
was  sufficient  to  destroy  the  unity  of  the  Democratic  party  at  its  con- 
vention in  1924  and  to  bring  out  the  defenders  of  liberalism  in  hordes 
to  the  Scopes  trial  one  year  later.  Although  the  flagrant  immorality 
of  its  leaders  killed  the  Klan,  and  the  overeating  of  Bryan,  the  cham- 
pion of  temperance  and  the  Bible,  killed  him  and  the  fundamentalist 
movement,  their  temporary  threat  was  real  enough.  But  while  men 
in  white  sheets  whipped  bootleggers  and  prostitutes,  smothered  labor 
organizers  and  Negroes  with  tar  and  feathers,  and  forbade  school- 
masters to  teach  that  human  beings  were  descended  from  the  lecher- 
ous ape,  the  red  lights  of  the  sprawling  cities  cast  their  glow  ever  more 
brightly  from  New  Orleans  to  Chicago,  from  Hollywood  to  New  York. 

Prohibition  brought  some  prosperity  to  the  backwoods.  Sharecrop- 
pers, tenant  farmers,  fishermen  of  the  bayous,  dwellers  on  the  mud 
banks  of  the  Mississippi,  all  found  the  tending  of  stills  or  the  sailing 
of  rumrunners  more  profitable  than  the  cultivation  of  the  overworked 
soil.  Corn  whisky  averaged  five  dollars  a  pint  between  1920  and  1925. 
West  Indian  rum  fetched  more.  The  illicit  liquor  trade  became  almost 
decent  as  well  as  profitable.  A  student  put  himself  through  a  Southern 
theological  seminary  by  selling  bootleg  liquor  to  Congressmen.  Fed- 
eral enforcement  of  the  liquor  laws  by  a  Republican  government  was 
resisted  in  the  South  in  the  name  of  Confederate  pride  and  the 
Democratic  party.  Even  the  poor  Negroes  benefited,  from  the  owners 
of  the  "speak-easy  cabins"  to  the  winking  bellboys  and  porters  at 
Southern  hotels.  Indeed,  the  simultaneous  prohibition  of  prostitution 
and  liquor  below  the  Mason-Dixon  line  for  the  purpose  of  curbing 
the  Negroes  had  the  perverse  effect  of  increasing  their  contempt  for 
the  white  man's  hypocrisy.  For  they  became  the  procurers  of  alcohol 

290   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

and  whores  for  their  white  masters,  with  aU  the  accompanying  privi- 
leges of  pimps  and  middlemen.11  Prohibition,  instead  of  keeping 
Negroes  from  vice,  put  them  in  control  of  it 

The  Protestant  evangelical  churches  also  suffered  a  relative  decline 
in  the  twenties.  As  Harry  Emerson  Fosdick  admitted,  science  had  be- 
come "religion's  overwhelmingly  successful  competitor  in  showing  men 
how  to  get  what  they  want."12  Public  schools  and  high  schools  and 
colleges  began  to  take  over  the  function  of  the  churches  as  educators. 
Moreover,  the  automobile,  the  radio,  motion  pictures,  and  outdoor 
sports  proved  more  attractive  than  the  pulpit  on  a  Sunday.  Welfare 
agencies  pushed  the  minister  out  of  his  role  as  counselor  and  guide. 
Although  congregations  nominally  increased,  the  influence  of  religion 
declined.  In  rich  city  churches,  the  minister  became  increasingly  a 
mere  preacher  to  comfortable  souls,  a  businessman  of  God  among 
other  businessmen.  In  poor  city  churches,  the  congregation  was  drawn 
chiefly  from  country  immigrants,  who  sought  the  consolation  of  the 
old-time  religion  which  they  had  left  behind  them. 

Prohibition  itself  caused  some  unpleasant  scandals  in  the  churches. 
Those  churches  which  used  alcoholic  sacramental  wine  found  that 
not  all  of  the  wine  reached  the  altar.  Roy  Haynes  discovered  hundreds 
of  false  rabbis  manufacturing  wine  for  fictitious  congregations,  while 
bootleggers  were  apt  to  hijack  wine  on  its  way  to  the  sanctuary.18  A 
report  of  the  Federal  Council  of  the  Churches  of  Christ  in  America 
showed  that  nearly  three  million  gallons  of  sacramental  wine  were 
withdrawn  in  1924  from  government  warehouses.  The  report  estimated 
that  not  more  than  one-quarter  of  this  amount  was  used  for  the  sacra- 
ments —  the  rest  was  used  sacrilegiously.14  Holy  wine,  however,  was 
a  mere  drop  in  the  ocean  of  the  bootleg  liquor  which  was  swamping 

The  split  ideology  of  the  churches  concerning  prohibition  was  re- 
vealed while  the  "experiment,  noble  in  motive"  ran  its  course.  The 
fundamentalist  wing  of  the  churches,  those  who  backed  the  crusade 
against  evolution  and  the  sagging  morals  of  the  times,  helped  the 
enforcement  officers  and  the  Ku  Klux  Klan  to  persecute  bootleggers. 
For  their  nativist  followers,  Billy  Sunday  preached  his  new  "Booze 
Sermon,"  entitled  "Crooks,  Corkscrews,  Bootleggers,  and  Whisky  Poli- 
ticians .  .  .  They  Shall  Not  Pass,"  with  its  savage  calls  for  deportation 
of  foreign  bootleggers  and  radicals  and  dissenters  who  would  not  kiss 
and  obey  the  American  flag.15  The  moderate  group  in  the  churches 
straddled  the  issue,  preached  obedience  to  the  law,  and  kept  mum. 
The  liberal  wing,  however,  supported  the  actions  of  the  social  gospel 
movement  and  of  the  Federal  Council  of  Churches,  even  when  these 
actions  seemed  to  condemn  the  dry  cause.  The  actual  report  of  the 

LAST    VICTORY/  291 

Federal  Council  which  revealed  the  facts  about  sacramental  wine 
was  hailed  by  the  wet  propagandist  Hugh  Fox  as  a  "searching  criticism 
of  prohibition  conditions,"  although  it  was  condemned  by  the  dry 
Clarence  True  Wilson  as  a  paid  document  of  the  Association  Against 
the  Prohibition  Amendment16 

The  report  contained  many  damning  facts  about  prohibition.  Its 
publication  with  the  apparent  endorsement  of  the  Federal  Council 
of  Churches  was  a  telling  blow  to  the  claim  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League 
to  represent  the  Protestant  churches  in  action.  Moreover,  the  report 
contradicted  flatly  many  of  the  dry  assertions  that  prohibition  was  be- 
coming increasingly  successful.  The  report  stated  the  truth,  that,  al- 
though it  had  not  yet  been  proved  that  prohibition  could  not  be 
enforced,  no  adequate  attempt  at  enforcement  had  so  far  been  made. 
The  fundamental  fact  was  that  a  large  part  of  the  American  people 
opposed  the  Eighteenth  Amendment.  The  trouble  was  with  the  peo- 
ple rather  than  their  government,  which  had  tried  to  administer  in- 
adequately an  impossible  reform.  The  bootleg  traffic  had  caused 
political  corruption  as  well  as  being  affected  by  existing  corruption. 
The  favorable  trend  toward  temperance  before  1920  had  been  re- 
versed, at  least  temporarily,  by  1925.  In  the  matter  of  temperance 
education,  the  delinquency  of  the  churches  was  greater  than  that  of 
the  federal  government.  Even  the  inferior  type  of  religious  temperance 
education,  which  was  common  before  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  had 
been  largely  stopped.  Prohibition  was  doomed  unless  religion  and 
education  changed  the  minds  of  the  people  about  the  virtues  of  the 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  put  such  pressure  on  the  Executive  Com- 
mittee of  the  Federal  Council  of  Churches  that  steps  were  taken  to 
brand  the  report  as  the  sole  work  of  the  head  of  the  Research  Depart- 
ment. Furthermore,  the  Executive  Committee  issued  a  second  report 
affirming  its  unequivocal  support  of  national  prohibition.  But  the 
damage  was  already  done.  The  division  of  the  churches  over  the  mat- 
ter of  prohibition  had  been  widely  publicized  across  America.  Criti- 
cism from  inside  the  Protestant  churches,  widely  touted  by  the  drys  as 
solid  for  the  cause  of  prohibition,  had  at  last  become  overt.17  Bishop 
Cannon  admitted  that,  in  the  judgment  of  men  and  women  who  had 
led  the  prohibition  fight  for  very  many  years,  "no  document  had  ever 
been  printed  which  had  been  productive  of  more  real  harm  to  the 
cause  of  prohibition."18 

In  face  of  their  growing  loss  of  public  sympathy,  the  drys  insisted 
on  the  ultimate  success  of  their  cause.  As  their  power  declined,  their 
voices  rose.  As  their  difficulties  increased,  their  confidence  kept  pace. 
As  law  enforcement  became  more  impossible,  the  drys  demanded  more 

292   /THE    DRY    TREE 

of  it.  In  1926,  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  declared,  "The  very  fact  that  the  law 
is  difficult  to  enforce  is  the  clearest  proof  of  the  need  of  its  exist- 
ence/'19 Setbacks  did  not  dismay  the  militant  prohibitionists,  but  drove 
them  on  to  greater  efforts.  The  climax  of  the  crusade  of  the  Protestant 
evangelical  churches  was  reached  in  the  presidential  campaign  of 
1928.  They  treated  the  battle  between  the  dry  Hoover  and  the  wet 
Smith  as  a  national  referendum  on  prohibition.  And  if  much  of  the 
opposition  of  fundamentalist  clergymen  to  Smith  was  on  the  grounds 
of  his  Catholicism  and  immigrant  city  birth  rather  than  his  habit  of 
drinking  cocktails,  the  liquor  issue  provided  a  genuine  and  convenient 
mask  for  religious  and  ethnic  bigotry.  Moreover,  to  the  prejudiced 
mind,  Smith's  sins  were  the  same.  Liquor  and  the  Pope,  cities  and 
immigration,  were  linked  evils,  an  unholy  unity  which  was  the  cause 
of  all  Protestant  ills. 


THE  CONFLICT  between  Herbert  Hoover  and  Alfred  Emanuel  Smith 
for  the  presidency  in  1928  was  an  excellent  example  of  the  divergent 
upbringings  of  those  Americans  who  lived  in  the  country  and  those 
who  lived  in  the  cities.  Hoover  was  brought  up  on  an  Iowa  farm. 
Rugged  individualism  and  self-sufficiency  were  the  facts  of  country 
life  which  Hoover  later  elevated  to  a  philosophy.  The  farm  produced 
its  own  foodstuffs,  made  its  own  soap,  stored  up  against  time  of 
winter  or  slump  full  bins  and  jars  and  barrels,  which  were  "social 
security  itself."  Hard  times  were  to  be  helped,  not  by  handouts  in  the 
Tammany  fashion,  but  by  hard  work  and  trips  to  the  private  stores 
which  every  decent  man  put  aside  for  bad  days.  Life  on  the  homestead 
was  thrifty  and  self-disciplined,  especially  among  Quaker  families 
like  the  Hoovers.  His  parents'  view  on  education  was  as  narrow  as  the 
limitations  of  their  lives;  they  were  "unwilling  in  those  days  to  have 
youth  corrupted  with  stronger  reading  than  the  Bible,  the  encyclo- 
pedia, or  those  great  novels  where  the  hero  overcomes  the  demon 
rum."  Hoover's  mother,  better  educated  than  most  of  her  contempo- 
raries, spoke  frequently  at  Quaker  and  prohibition  meetings.  On  one 
occasion,  the  child  Herbert  was  "parked  for  the  day  at  the  polls,  where 
the  women  were  massed  in  an  effort  to  make  the  men  vote  themselves 
dry."  But,  by  the  age  of  eight,  Hoover  was  orphaned  of  both  parents, 
to  be  brought  up  among  the  virtues  of  toil  and  Inner  Light  on  his 
uncle's  farm.  Long  hours  spent  in  the  Quaker  meetinghouse  waiting 
for  the  spirit  to  move  someone  were  an  "intense  repression"  on  the 
boy,  who  learned  patience  at  the  price  of  play.20 
Hoover  began  his  career  as  a  mining  engineer  and  consultant.  He 

LAST    VICTORY/  293 

called  himself  "an  industrial  doctor/'21  He  traveled  continually  over 
the  world,  introducing  modern  engineering  methods  to  Australia  and 
China  and  Russia.  But,  after  a  time,  he  found  the  promotion  of  com- 
panies in  London  more  profitable  than  the  sinking  of  mine  shafts.  He 
was  concerned  in  a  number  of  speculations.  Accounts  of  these  transac- 
tions were  used  against  him  in  the  campaigns  of  1928  and  1932  by  smear 
biographers.22  Most  of  the  transactions,  however,  are  masked  in  a  de- 
cent obscurity.  Hoover's  fortune  at  the  outbreak  of  the  First  World 
War  was  some  four  million  dollars.  During  the  next  fourteen  years,  he 
used  up  three  million  dollars  in  his  political  career,  and  in  philan- 

During  the  War,  Hoover  made  his  reputation  as  the  Great  Engineer. 
He  carried  out  two  efficient  jobs.  The  first  was  the  repatriation  of 
Americans  stranded  in  Europe  at  the  outbreak  of  the  fighting;  the  sec- 
ond was  his  handling  of  the  United  States  Food  Administration  to  con- 
serve supplies  in  America  and  feed  starving  Europe  under  and  after 
the  German  occupation.  Prohibition  was  one  of  the  methods  of  con- 
serving grain.  Hoover  was  against  stopping  the  production  of  beer, 
since  he  thought  that  saving  four  million  bushels  of  grain  monthly  was 
not  worth  the  likely  substitution  of  whisky  and  gin  for  beer  in  the 
mouths  of  the  munition  workers.  Al  Smith,  in  a  speech  at  Philadelphia 
in  1928,  tellingly  quoted  Hoover's  views  of  ten  years  before,  that  2.75 
per  cent  beer  was  "mighty  difficult  to  get  drunk  on"  and  that  "any  true 
advocate  of  temperance  and  national  efficiency"  would  shrink  from 
stopping  the  making  of  beer  altogether.28 

Hoover  was  as  practiced  at  promoting  his  own  reputation  as  his  com- 
panies'. The  legend  of  the  Great  Engineer  was  so  potent  in  1920  that 
both  parties  approached  him  as  a  presidential  possibility.  He  declared 
himself  a  Republican,  and,  although  he  did  not  secure  many  votes  at 
the  nominating  convention,  he  made  a  good  enough  showing  to  make 
sure  of  a  post  in  the  Cabinet.  For  eight  years  he  was  Secretary  of  Com- 
merce and  "Undersecretary  of  all  other  departments."24  He  took  the 
credit  for  the  boom  as  though  it  were  his  own  personal  doing.  His  De- 
partment's press  releases  came  "like  flakes  of  snow  in  a  heavy  storm";  a 
small-town  California  editor  declared  that  he  had  received  a  piece  of 
Hoover  publicity  every  day  for  several  years.25  Hoover  used  his  un- 
doubted efficiency  in  government  as  an  instrument  of  advertisement. 
His  Inner  Light  was  not  kept  under  a  bushel. 

While  this  image  of  Hoover  the  Master  Builder  was  to  help  him 
against  Smith,  it  was  to  damn  him  against  Roosevelt.  If  he  was  the 
architect  of  prosperity,  he  was  presumably  also  the  architect  of  de- 
pression. When  Will  Rogers  commented  in  1927  that  Herbert  Hoover 
was  "just  waiting  around  between  calamities"  in  his  role  of  "America's 

294   /   THE    DRY    TREE 

family  physician/*  he  was  describing  the  image  that  the  Hoover  pub- 
licists had  put  into  the  mind  of  many  Americans.26  Thus,  after  calamity 
came  and  Hoover  was  incompetent  to  deal  with  it,  he  was  disbelieved 
when  he  said  that  the  slump  was  not  his  fault.  He  had  cried  too  often 
that  the  wolf  of  poverty  was  always  shut  out  by  the  door  of  Republi- 
can prosperity.  As  Elmer  Davis  wrote,  "Hoover  said  what  he  correctly 
judged  the  majority  of  voters  thought,  and  promised  what  the  majority 
wanted.  Adult  Americans  elected  him  for  the  same  reason  that  would 
have  led  Americans  under  the  age  of  ten  to  elect  Santa  Glaus/*27 

Alfred  E.  Smith  represented  the  antithesis  of  Hoover.  His  tradition 
was  the  tradition  of  the  American  urban  immigrant.  He  was  the  son  of 
poor  Irish  parents.  His  mother  brought  up  his  sister  and  him  with  de- 
cent devoutness  in  a  slum.  When  his  truckman  father  died,  Smith  went 
out  to  work  in  the  Fulton  Fish  Market  at  the  age  of  twelve  to  support 
his  family.  He  was  an  altar  boy  at  the  Roman  Catholic  Church  of  St. 
James,  a  frequent  performer  in  amateur  theatricals  as  long  as  he  did 
not  have  to  play  the  part  of  the  villain,  and  an  ambitious  political  sup- 
porter of  Tammany.  When  he  was  twenty-six,  he  married  an  Irish  girl, 
by  whom  he  was  to  have  five  children.  His  loyalty,  respectability,  and 
dramatic  talents  recommended  him  to  the  Tammany  organization.  He 
rose  steadily  to  prominence  in  the  city  and  then  in  the  state  through 
the  offices  of  subpoena  server,  assemblyman,  majority  leader  in  the  As- 
sembly, member  of  the  State  Constitutional  Convention,  and  sheriff. 
Although  he  had  the  reputation  of  being  a  safe  machine  politician  and 
of  regularly  voting  the  Tammany  ticket,  he  was  also  known  as  a  sup- 
porter of  industrial  and  social  legislation  after  the  tragic  Triangle 
Waist  fire  of  1911.  If  he  always  supported  the  liquor  interests  because 
they  supported  Tammany,  he  was  still  aware  that  unless  they  put  their 
own  house  in  order,  the  drys  might  do  so  for  them.28  But  wherever 
the  sale  of  liquor  was  prohibited  he  said  that  hypocrisy  reigned.29 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  lobby  at  Albany  depended  largely  on  the 
Republican  party  in  the  state.  Both  organizations  were  based  on  the 
country  districts.  Yet  the  Republicans  could  not  be  too  overtly  dry,  for 
they  needed  wet  city  support  to  elect  their  candidates  for  Governor. 
Although  the  League  exploited  the  division  between  upstate  and  New 
York  City,  the  urban  areas  were  too  powerful  to  give  the  prohibition- 
ists the  stranglehold  over  legislation  that  they  had  in  Southern  and 
Western  states.  Throughout  his  life,  Smith  courageously  attacked  the 
Anti-Saloon  League.  He  accused  it  of  influencing  legislators  against 
their  better  judgment  and  of  being  almost  identical  with  the  Ku  Klux 
Klan.30  The  League  suffered  the  mortification  of  seeing  Governor 
Smith's  majority  increase  election  after  election,  although  it  had  its  re- 
venge when  he  ran  for  President. 

LAST    VICTORY/  295 

Smith  was  a  Democrat  in  belief  as  well  as  in  party.  He  thought  that 
the  cure  for  the  ills  of  democracy  was  more  democracy.31  Thus  he 
based  his  opposition  to  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  on  the  grounds 
that  it  was  not  ratified  by  the  people,  denied  the  states*  rights  prin- 
ciple in  the  Constitution,  and  deliberately  avoided  definition  of  the 
word  "intoxicating"  in  order  to  be  passed  without  fear  of  failure.32  He 
thought  the  definition  by  the  Volstead  Act  of  "intoxicating"  was  hypo- 
critical and  deceitful.  He  claimed  that  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  had  been 
unable  to  defend  this  definition,  and  had  excused  the  drys  by  saying, 
"Well,  we  were  in  the  saddle  and  we  drove  through/'88  For  Smith, 
much  of  the  hatred  of  the  saloon  by  the  prohibitionists  was  a  covert 
attack  on  the  immigrants  who  liked  beer  and  wine  more  than  cider.  It 
was  also  an  attack  on  the  Irish  control  of  city  politics  and  on  the 
Catholic  religion,  which  was  more  concerned  with  salvation  through 
temperance  and  faith  than  through  legislation  and  repression.  More- 
over, prohibition  was  a  Republican  weapon  in  the  state,  and  Smith  was 
a  Tammany  Democrat. 

In  his  successful  campaign  for  Governor  in  1918,  Smith  first  met  the 
anti-Catholic  and  prohibitionist  sentiment  that  was  to  aid  his  defeat  ten 
years  later  in  his  campaign  for  President.  But  New  York  was  numeri- 
cally powerful  enough  to  cancel  out  the  ill  effects  of  the  dry  and  Re- 
publican attempts  at  slander.  Moveover,  as  Smith  noted,  the  religious 
issue  reacted  in  his  favor  in  such  places  as  the  city  of  Albany,  out  of 
resentment  that  religion  should  be  an  issue  at  all.84 

When  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  came  up  before  the  two  houses  of 
the  state  for  ratification  in  1919,  Governor  Smith  sent  his  first  message 
to  the  legislature,  asking  them  for  a  referendum  on  the  matter.  He 
wrote,  "I  believe  it  is  our  duty  to  ascertain  the  will  of  the  people  di- 
rectly upon  this  subject/'35  But  a  caucus  of  the  Republican  party, 
which  was  in  a  majority  in  both  houses,  insisted  on  ratification.  The 
Republicans  feared  that  a  vote  against  the  amendment  would  turn  the 
dry  rural  areas  against  their  traditional  representatives.  The  Anti-Sa- 
loon League  encouraged  this  belief.  Smith  was  amused  when  the  same 
Republican  majorities,  in  an  effort  to  placate  the  wet  cities,  passed  a 
light-wines  and  beer  bill,  allowing  the  manufacture  of  beverages  con- 
taining 2.75  per  cent  of  alcohol.  This  bill  was  declared  unconstitu- 
tional by  the  state  Supreme  Court.  The  Republicans  had  tried  unsuc- 
cessfully, in  Smith's  later  words,  to  carry  water  on  both  shoulders,  dry 
among  the  drys  and  wet  among  the  wets  3S 

For  eight  of  the  ten  years  after  1918,  Smith  was  Governor  of  New 
York.  His  only  losing  campaign  was  in  the  Republican  landslide  of 
1920,  although  he  polled  a  million  more  votes  than  the  Democratic 
candidate  for  President.  He  regularly  polled  more  votes  as  Governor 

296  /  THE    DBY    TREE 

than  his  party's  nominee  in  presidential  years  owing  to  his  huge  popu- 
larity and  to  the  separate  ballot  system  of  voting  in  New  York.87  A 
regular  Republican  majority  in  the  Assembly  blocked  his  reform  pro- 
gram during  his  first  three  years  as  Governor;  but,  by  1927,  he  had  put 
through  a  large  schedule  of  better  housing,  better  highways,  and  bet- 
ter administration.  He  made  New  York  an  example  of  efficient  govern- 
ment, and  himself  both  a  genius  at  the  practical  details  of  state  politics 
and  the  leading  candidate  for  his  party's  choice  as  President. 

In  the  Democratic  convention  of  1920,  Smith's  position  as  favorite 
son  of  New  York  was  only  a  maneuver  on  the  part  of  Boss  Murphy  to 
keep  the  delegates  from  voting  for  the  dry  McAdoo.  The  move  was 
successful,  and  the  moist  Cox  was  nominated.  But  after  his  second 
election  as  Governor  in  1922,  Smith  knew  that  his  presidential  chances 
were  greater.  Few  Presidents  had  been  elected  without  carrying  New 
York  State,  and  Smith  seemed  capable  of  doing  so.  From  this  date,  a 
significant  and  interesting  change  in  Smith's  attitude  towards  prohibi- 
tion showed  his  increasing  awareness  of  his  presidential  possibilities. 
His  behavior  over  the  repeal  of  the  Mullan-Gage  Law,  which  had  been 
passed  in  1920  to  provide  for  the  strict  state  enforcement  of  the  terms 
of  the  Volstead  Act,  demonstrated  his  increasing  caution  to  do  nothing 
on  "the  liquor  issue  which  might  prejudice  his  chances  at  a  national 
convention  of  his  party. 

Although  the  Democratic  state  platform  of  1922  had  discreetly  con- 
tained no  condemnation  of  the  Mullan-Gage  Law,  the  suffering  wets 
of  New  York  had  presumed  that  Al  Smith  would  be  more  ready  than 
his  opponents  to  call  off  the  state  police  from  pursuit  of  the  speak- 
easies. He  was  elected  by  a  large  majority  and  then  proceeded  to  say 
and  do  nothing  about  the  Mullan-Gage  Law.  But  the  Republican  party 
was  unlikely  to  let  slip  such  a  perfect  chance  for  the  political  embar- 
rassment of  their  enemies.  They  repealed  the  state  enforcement  law 
and  sent  the  repeal  bill  to  the  Democratic  Governor  to  approve. 

Various  pressures  were  put  on  Smith  during  the  thirty  days'  grace 
he  had  in  which  to  sign  the  bill.  His  presidential  advisers  warned  him 
that  his  approval  of  the  bill  would  make  him  the  acknowledged  leader 
of  the  wets  and  confirm  the  antagonism  of  the  dry  South  and  West 
within  the  Democratic  party.  His  state  advisers,  Boss  Murphy  and 
Tammany,  insisted  that  he  sign  the  bill,  for  the  state  Democratic  party 
depended  on  the  wet  vote.  In  addition,  Al  Smith  had  a  personal  con- 
viction of  his  own  honesty  and  courage,  upon  which  he  often  acted. 
He  himself  drank  and  considered  prohibition  an  intolerable  affront  to 
personal  liberty.  Yet  he  spent  the  full  thirty  days  coming  to  a  decision. 
The  alternatives  were  clear.  If  he  vetoed  the  repeal  bill,  he  might  lose 
his  state  at  the  next  election,  and  thus  lose  all  chances  of  the  presiden- 

LAST    VICTORY/  297 

tial  nomination.  If  he  signed  the  bill,  he  would  retain  the  governorship 
of  New  York  and  his  chances  of  nomination  for  President,  but  he 
would  probably  lose  the  following  campaign.  He  signed  the  bill.  An 
Albany  in  the  hand  was  worth  a  White  House  in  the  bush. 

Smith  was  conscious  enough  of  the  future,  however,  to  send  back 
with  his  approval  a  long  memorandum  to  the  legislature.  The  docu- 
ment was  as  specious  and  evasive  as  the  best  straddles  of  his  Republi- 
can enemies.  He  pointed  out  that  the  repeal  of  the  Mullan-Gage  Law 
eliminated  the  possibility  of  double  jeopardy  by  prosecution  for  the 
same  crime  in  both  state  and  federal  courts.  He  denied  that  the  word 
"concurrent"  in  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  imposed  a  duty  on  the 
forty-eight  states  to  enforce  the  Amendment.  He  stood  up  for  the  Jef- 
fersonian  and  Southern  doctrine  of  states'  rights.  He  stated  the  obvious 
in  saying  that  drinking  was  still  illegal;  but  he  became  hypocritical  in 
stating  that  repeal  did  not  "in  the  slightest  degree  lessen  the  obliga- 
tion of  police  officers  of  the  state  to  enforce  in  its  strictest  letter  the 
Volstead  Act."  By  confining  prosecution  of  prohibition  cases  to  the 
already  overflowing  federal  courts  and  by  making  the  aid  of  the  state 
police  to  the  federal  agents  a  mere  obligation  rather  than  a  law,  Smith 
ensured  that  New  York  would  surpass  even  Chicago  in  its  crusade  to 
be  the  wet  Jerusalem.  His  memorandum  did  him  no  good  among  the 
drys,  and  was  immediately  denounced  by  William  Jennings  Bryan  and 
by  representative  Andrew  Volstead,  of  Minnesota  and  notorious  name.38 

Smith  tried  to  restore  his  position  among  the  prohibitionists  by 
making  huge  claims  for  the  efficiency  of  enforcement  in  New  York  at 
the  Governors'  Conference  in  October,  1923,  under  the  leadership  of 
President  Coolidge.  He  sought  to  prove  by  various  figures  that  the 
value  of  liquor  seized  and  the  number  of  arrests  in  the  state  had 
doubled  in  the  six  months  after  the  repeal  of  the  Mullan-Gage  Law, 
when  compared  with  the  six  months  before.39  Half  a  million  more 
dollars  had  been  appropriated  to  policing  the  Canadian  and  interstate 
borders,  since  Smith  maintained  that  smuggling  was  the  chief  source  of 
liquor  in  New  York.  Thus  he  sought  to  allow  home-brew  to  flourish 
and  attract  wet  votes  within  the  state,  while  the  example  of  seized 
liquor  from  outside  might  attract  dry  votes  from  without  the  state. 

The  Democratic  convention  of  1924  in  New  York  was  a  microcosm 
of  the  feuds,  phobias,  and  hatreds  that  were  to  split  the  traditional  align- 
ments of  the  party  wide  open  four  years  later.  If  the  galleries  were  not 
packed  in  favor  of  the  Governor  from  New  York,  at  least  they  saw  in 
him  one  of  themselves,  and  hallooed  for  their  likeness.  Although  the 
terrible  struggle  over  the  vote  condemning  the  Klan  pushed  the  pro- 
hibition issue  into  the  background,  the  attitude  of  the  Klan  itself,  with 
its  declared  prejudices  against  Catholicism  and  immigrants  and  sa- 

298   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

loons  and  the  immorality  of  cities,  reflected  overtly  the  actual  opposi- 
tion to  Smith  that  was  to  hide  in  1928  under  the  name  of  prohibition. 
Here  was  the  first  hero  of  the  new  blood  and  iron  of  modern  industrial 
civilization.40  Against  him  stood  the  last  dry  nominee  of  the  Demo- 
crats, William  Gibbs  McAdoo,  backed  by  the  Klan  and  the  Anti-Sa- 
loon League.  It  was  not  surprising  that  the  convention  took  102  dead- 
locked ballots  before  nominating  John  W.  Davis,  who  would  call  a 
brief  truce  in  the  death  struggle  of  city  against  country  and  put  off  the 
fight  until  the  next  election. 

Of  course,  by  seeking  an  armistice  in  the  vital  battle,  the  Demo- 
crats ensured  their  defeat  and  an  election  of  apathy,  where  all  relied 
on  the  tepid  support  of  their  friends  and  sought  to  make  no  enemies. 
Less  than  half  of  the  electorate  bothered  to  vote.  In  New  York  State, 
however,  Al  Smith,  running  for  the  third  time  as  Governor,  polled  over 
a  million  more  votes  than  Davis  and  was  the  Democrats'  only  consola- 
tion in  the  worst  defeat  in  their  history. 

But  Smith's  inadequate  speech  at  the  convention  had  shown  that  he 
was  as  much  hampered  by  the  narrow  provincialism  of  the  city  as  his 
enemies  were  by  that  of  the  village.  He  spoke  of  little  else  than  his 
achievements  in  governing  New  York  well.  He  seemed  to  know  of 
nothing  outside  his  own  state,  and  confirmed  the  suspicions  of  the 
South  and  the  West  that  he  was  too  urbanized  to  want  to  understand 
their  particular  problems.  But  in  the  next  four  years  Al  Smith  was 
groomed  for  a  larger  role  by  his  clever  advisers,  the  Moskowitzes  and 
Judge  Proskauer.  Smith  often  picked  his  aides  from  among  the  New 
York  Jews,  knowing  that  they  felt  that  he  was  their  representative  as 
much  as  did  the  Irish  and  the  other  American  groups  who  found 
themselves  unfairly  considered  as  aliens. 

So  Al  Smith  from  the  East  Side  learned  something  of  farm  prob- 
lems, international  affairs,  and  national  economics.  He  took  up  the 
challenge  of  his  religion  after  an  open  letter  in  the  Atlantic  Monthly 
had  voiced  the  fears  of  the  Protestants  that  the  Pope  might  have  an 
undue  influence  on  a  Roman  Catholic  in  the  White  House.41  Smith 
wrote  a  dignified  and  brilliant  reply.  He  stated  that  he  would  be  a 
poor  American  and  a  poor  Catholic  alike  if  he  injected  religious  dis- 
cussion into  a  political  campaign.  He  denied  the  possibility  of  any  con- 
flict between  his  religion  and  his  duty  as  President  And  he  took  up 
an  extreme  Protestant  position  in  preferring  to  consult  in  difficult 
matters  the  dictates  of  his  conscience  rather  than  any  ecclesiastical 
tribunal.42  He  appealed  to  the  common  brotherhood  of  man  under  the 
common  fatherhood  of  God.  If  Protestant  prejudice  could  have  been 
allayed  by  anything  Smith  said,  this  letter  should  have  done  the  mir- 
acle. Instead,  it  forced  those  of  Smith's  religious  enemies  who  did  not 

LAST    VICTORY/  299 

relish  the  name  of  bigots  to  concentrate  on  his  wetness  rather  than  his 

A  discreet  silence  on  the  subject  of  prohibition  except  in  terms  of 
law  enforcement  shows  Smith  s  wariness  of  further  compromising  situ- 
ations, although  he  did  sign  the  bill  providing  for  a  wet  referendum 
in  New  York  in  1926.  By  more  than  a  million  votes,  New  York  asked 
for  modification  of  the  Volstead  Act  to  allow  the  states  to  define  their 
own  criterion  of  what  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  meant  by  "intoxi- 
cating." Al  Smith  could  point  to  his  home  state  in  his  request  for  states' 
rights  on  the  matter  of  prohibition.  And  if  he  said  nothing  on  the  sub- 
ject of  his  wetness  in  1927,  much  to  the  annoyance  of  Mencken,  he 
was  presumed  to  be  on  the  side  of  the  angels  of  alcohol.48  His  occa- 
sional demands  for  strict  enforcement  of  the  Volstead  Act  were  pre- 
sumed to  be  the  result  of  politic  advice  and  presidential  ambition. 

The  glaring  availability  of  Al  Smith  made  the  dry  forces  uneasy. 
The  wet  Chicago  Tribune  reported  that  the  Anti-Saloon  League  was 
raising  a  special  fund  of  $600,000  in  1927  to  defeat  any  candidate  for 
President  who  was  not  dry.44  Wayne  B.  Wheeler  issued  a  statement 
which  was  disavowed  by  more  discreet  officers  in  the  League;  he 
wrote  that  "if  Governor  Smith  is  nominated  and  the  drys  in  the  South 
would  rather  vote  for  an  independent  dry  candidate  for  President  than 
for  a  dry  Republican,  this  would  give  them  a  chance  to  register  their 
protest/'45  Bishop  James  Cannon,  casting  around  for  a  dry  candi- 
date, was  even  ready  to  support  McAdoo's  nominee,  Senator  Walsh,  of 
Montana,  although  he  was  another  Roman  Catholic.46  Walsh  would 
be,  after  all,  the  answer  to  those  who  accused  the  drys  of  fearing 
Smith  more  for  his  religion  than  his  wetness.  In  fact,  the  drys  knew 
that  Walsh  could  never  beat  Hoover  after  eight  years  of  prosperity, 
while  they  feared  that  Smith  might  win. 

Thus  Hoover  and  Smith  approached  the  Republican  and  the  Demo- 
cratic nominating  conventions  in  1928.  Each  was  the  most  available 
candidate  of  his  party.  Each  represented  a  fundamental  and  antagonis- 
tic principle  in  American  life.  Each  would  symbolize  in  his  victory 
more  than  the  victory  of  a  party,  and  in  his  defeat  more  than  the  de- 
feat of  a  man. 


AFTER  CALVIN  COOLIDGE'S  announcement  that  he  did  not  choose  to  run, 
the  Hoover  managers  arranged  that  the  next  Republican  convention 
would  be  in  their  candidate's  pocket.  He  was  nominated  on  the  first 
ballot.  The  party  platform  on  prohibition  matched  the  evasive  stand  of 
their  nominee  on  the  question.  Senator  Carter  Glass,  of  Virginia, 

300   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

offered  to  pay  a  thousand  dollars  to  anyone  who  could  produce  a 
single  categorical  dry  declaration  by  Hoover;  the  money  was  never 
claimed.  The  Republican  plank  favored  strict  enforcement  and  observ- 
ance of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment;  it  did  not  say  that  the  Grand  Old 
Party  approved  of  the  principle  of  national  prohibition.  Hoover  took 
the  same  line  as  his  party,  promising  strict  enforcement  of  the  dry  law 
as  it  stood,  and  calling  prohibition  "a  great  social  and  economic  experi- 
ment, noble  in  motive  and  far-reaching  in  purpose."  Although  Hoover 
was  not  responsible  for  the  popular  paraphrase  of  his  words  as  a 
"noble  experiment/'  he  did  admit  later  that  his  words  had  unfortunate 
repercussions.  He  stated,  "To  regard  the  prohibition  law  as  an  'experi- 
ment' did  not  please  the  extreme  drys,  and  to  say  it  was  'noble  in  mo- 
tive* did  not  please  the  extreme  wets/'47  It  was  unfortunate  that 
Hoover's  straddle  ended  in  a  muddle. 

The  Smith  forces  were  equally  in  full  control  of  the  Democratic  na- 
tional convention  at  Houston,  Texas.  The  Platform  Committee  was 
overwhelmingly  wet.  But  because  Smith's  partisans  wanted  a  "har- 
mony" convention  and  the  nomination  of  their  candidate  by  a  united 
party,  they  accepted  a  plank  written  by  the  dry  Senator  Glass  and 
approved  by  Josephus  Daniels.  The  plank  pledged  enforcement  of  the 
Eighteenth  Amendment,  although  it  was  not  as  extreme  as  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League  would  have  wished.  This  tactical  victory  by  the  Smith 
forces  was  a  strategical  error  in  the  long  run.  For  it  allowed  the  anti- 
Smith  prohibitionists  to  claim  with  some  justice  that  Smith's  telegram 
of  acceptance  denied  his  party's  platform.48  Smith  was  nominated  on  a 
revised  first  ballot  with  a  dry  Southerner,  Senator  Joseph  Robinson, 
of  Arkansas,  as  his  running  mate.  The  delegates  ignored  the  prohibi- 
tionist sermons  of  the  preachers  outside  the  hall  on  the  text  that  God 
would  block  Al  Smith's  nomination.40  Certainly,  sections  of  the  Method- 
ist and  Baptist  churches  were  to  ensure  that  their  version  of  God's 
will  blocked  Al  Smith's  election. 

Smith  sent  a  telegram  of  acceptance  to  the  convention.  He  stated 
his  old  position  on  prohibition,  which  had  only  been  played  down  for 
the  purpose  of  having  him  nominated  with  Southern  support.  He  said 
that  he  was  well  known  to  support  fundamental  changes  in  the  provi- 
sions for  national  prohibition,  based  on  the  principles  of  Jeffersonian 
democracy.  Although  he  appreciated  that  these  changes  could  only  be 
made  by  the  people  themselves  or  their  elected  representatives,  he  felt 
it  the  duty  of  the  chosen  leader  of  the  people  to  point  the  way.  Bishop 
Cannon  immediately  called  an  anti-Smith  meeting  at  Asheville,  North 
Carolina,  declaring  himself  stunned  by  Smith's  shameless  proposition 
of  political  double-dealing  and  his  action  of  brazen  political  effron- 
tery.50 In  fact,  Cannon  could  only  have  been  surprised  at  Smith's  sin- 

LAST    VICTORY   /   301 

cerity  in  declaring  himself  a  wet.  His  position  on  prohibition  had  re- 
mained consistent,  though  tacit. 

The  Nation  called  the  following  election  the  dirtiest  political  cam- 
paign ever,  although  one  of  its  editors  had  spread  the  dirt  with  an 
article  on  Smith  which  stated  that  he  drank  four  to  eight  highballs  a 
day.61  It  was  widely  believed  that  Smith  was  a  drunkard  and  had  to  be 
supported  while  he  made  his  speeches  in  order  to  keep  upright.  The 
fact  of  the  matter  was  that  he  drank  beer  when  he  was  young,  a  little 
hard  liquor  when  beer  became  difficult  to  procure  under  prohibition, 
and  champagne  with  repeal  and  riches. 

The  religious  campaign  against  Smith  is  impossible  to  distinguish 
from  the  dry  campaign  against  him.  They  were  part  and  parcel  of  the 
same  attitude.  The  pretense  of  the  drys  that  prohibition  had  every- 
thing to  do  with  Smith's  defeat  and  religion  little  is  untrue.  Cannon 
may  have  accused  Smith  of  dragging  the  religious  issue  into  the  cam- 
paign to  bring  out  the  Catholic  vote  for  the  Democrats;  but  he  cannot 
be  excused  from  distributing  380,000  copies  of  his  virulent  anti-Catho- 
lic pamphlet  Is  Southern  Protestantism  More  Intolerant  than  Roman- 
ism?  The  pamphlet  was  paid  for  by  the  money  of  a  Republican  finan- 
cier; the  greater  part  of  its  contents  were  called  by  Current  History 
"completely  untrue  or  gravely  misleading."52  Cannon's  own  freedom 
from  religious  bigotry  was  not  shown  by  his  judgment  of  Al  Smith, 
that  Smith  was  "of  the  intolerant,  bigoted  type,  characteristic  of  the 
Irish  Roman  Catholic  hierarchy  of  New  York  City/'53 

While  Cannon  still  maintained  that  the  bolt  of  the  Southern  Demo- 
crats to  the  side  of  Hoover  was  over  prohibition,  his  helper  at  Ashe- 
ville  was  more  outspoken.54  Dr.  Arthur  J.  Barton,  of  the  Anti-Saloon 
League,  said  openly  in  his  address  at  Birmingham,  Alabama,  that  reli- 
gion was  more  important  than  prohibition;  if  Al  Smith  were  to  be 
elected,  America  would  come  under  the  domination  of  a  "foreign  reli- 
gious sect";  in  fact,  Herbert  Hoover  was  the  real  Democratic  candidate 
for  President.55  Mabel  Walker  Willebrandt  was  sent  by  the  National 
Republican  Committee  to  exhort  the  Ohio  Conference  of  the  Method- 
ist Episcopal  Church;  she  begged  the  Methodist  leaders  to  defend  pro- 
hibition against  Al  Smith,  who  had  dragged  the  issue  into  the  cam- 
paign; the  Republicans  did  not  put  an  end  to  her  speaking  tour  until 
the  "moral"  aspects  of  prohibition  were  significantly  exploited.56 
Mencken,  subscribing  to  all  the  Methodist  and  Baptist  newspapers  be- 
low the  Potomac,  found  that  two-thirds  of  them  devoted  half  their 
space  to  bawling  that  anyone  who  was  against  prohibition  was  against 
God,  and  the  other  half  of  their  space  to  damning  the  Pope  57  As  fair- 
minded  a  religious  leader  as  the  great  Reinhold  Niebuhr  said  that  the 
real  issues  in  the  campaign  were  hid  under  the  decent  veil  of  loyalty 

302   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

to  a  moral  ideal  —  prohibition.58  Smith  himself,  his  campaign  supporters 
and  biographers,  most  Roman  Catholics,  Senator  Norris,  Harold  Ickes, 
the  Socialist  candidate  Norman  Thomas,  James  M.  Cox,  and  those 
acute  commentators  on  the  South,  Gunnar  Myrdal  and  Wilbur  J.  Cash, 
all  considered  religion  to  be  the  real  reason  for  Smith's  defeat. 

Smith,  however,  was  stung  to  the  limits  of  his  courage  by  the  vicious- 
ness  of  the  attacks  upon  him.  He  chose  to  defend  himself  on  the 
charge  of  religion  in  tie  Klan  country  of  Oklahoma  City,  against  the 
advice  of  his  entourage,  who  feared  that  the  prejudiced  crowd  might 
attack  him.  He  reminded  the  audience  that  religious  toleration  was 
written  into  the  American  Constitution.  To  his  way  of  thinking,  he 
said,  anyone  who  voted  against  him  because  of  his  religion  was  not  a 
good  citizen.59  In  New  York,  he  called  the  Anti-Saloon  League  the 
twin  brother  of  the  Ku  Klux  Klan,  and  accused  the  Republicans  of  con- 
niving at  a  campaign  based  "on  religious  bigotry  and  religious  intoler- 
ance/' Senator  Moses,  the  Eastern  manager  of  the  Hoover  campaign, 
had  been  discovered  mailing  to  Kentucky  scurrilous  literature  which 
attacked  Smith  from  the  point  of  view  of  his  faith.60  Smith's  courage 
in  his  campaign  even  won  over  his  opponent,  William  Allen  White; 
White  wrote  that  he  had  wound  up  his  campaign  against  Smith  with 
the  pity  that  is  akin  to  love  for  his  opponent,  a  hero  of  tragedy.61  Of 
course,  White  voted  Republican  as  did  many  traditional  Democrats, 
protesting  their  religious  tolerance  and  casting  a  ballot  for  their 

Smith  spoke  out  more  against  those  who  attacked  him  for  his  faith 
than  for  his  wetness.  He  even  denied  in  Omaha  that  prohibition  was  a 
great  issue  in  the  election,62  while  Senator  Robinson  was  discreetly 
sent  to  the  South  to  pacify  the  drys  there.  But  Smith  did  speak  out  on 
prohibition  in  the  wet  cities,  swinging  them  towards  the  Democrats. 
In  Milwaukee,  he  called  prohibition  "the  great  political  pork  barrel 
for  the  Republican  party."  He  quoted  Senator  Gore,  who  had  stated 
that  the  Republican  policy  was  to  give  liquor  to  the  wets  and  law  to 
the  drys.  Smith  promised  he  would  enforce  the  law  as  he  found  it,  but 
he  would  work  for  the  repeal  of  the  Volstead  Act  to  give  the  states 
control  over  their  own  liquor  policy  and  police  power.63  He  spoke 
similarly  during  his  campaign  in  Nashville,  emphasizing  states'  rights;64 
in  Chicago,  stressing  the  need  to  put  an  end  to  crime;65  in  Philadel- 
phia, ridiculing  former  Governor  Hughes  for  saying  that  prohibition 
was  unimportant  in  order  to  disguise  Hoover's  evasiveness  over  the 
issue.66  In  Baltimore,  he  attacked  Republican  "wiggling  and  wobbling" 
over  prohibition;  he  denounced  the  "cold-blooded  threat"  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League;  and  he  pointed  out  that  no  one  could  "make  a  new  sin 
by  law."67 

LAST    VICTORY   /  303 

The  stand  of  Hoover  and  the  Republicans  on  prohibition  was  indeed 
unsatisfactory.  All  that  could  be  safely  said  of  them  was  that  they 
were  more  dry  than  their  opponents.  Senator  Borah  was  sent  through 
the  South  and  West  to  represent  that  each  vote  for  Smith  was  a  vote 
for  wetness;  he  had  correctly  predicted  in  Hoover's  case  that  everyone 
would  be  talking  about  prohibition  except  the  deaf,  the  dumb,  and  the 
candidates.68  Meanwhile,  F.  M.  Huntingdon-Wilson  declared  that  the 
wets  had  their  best  chance  of  legal  wine  and  beer  under  Hoover, 
while  Charles  Evans  Hughes  called  Smith's  plan  for  liquor  control 
"State  Socialism/'69  In  general,  the  Republicans  tried  to  bring  out  the 
rural  vote  in  large  quantities  by  calling  the  prohibition  issue  in  the 
country  "a  city  issue,"  while  they  quieted  the  cities  by  calling  prohibi- 
tion "a  sham  battle."70  But  perhaps  no  statement  of  the  campaign  ap- 
proached the  silliness  of  a  declaration  of  J.  W.  Walker,  when  he 
termed  Alfred  E.  Smith  "America's  greatest  prohibitionist."71 

Mencken  put  one  problem  of  the  election  succinctly  on  the  eve  of 
polling.  "If  Al  wins  tomorrow,  it  will  be  because  the  American  people 
have  decided  at  last  to  vote  as  they  drink,  and  because  a  majority  of 
them  believe  that  the  Methodist  bishops  are  worse  than  the  Pope.  If 
he  loses,  it  will  be  because  those  who  fear  the  Pope  outnumber  those 
who  are  tired  of  the  Anti-Saloon  League."72  In  fact,  Al  Smith  lost  by 
some  six  million  votes  mainly  because  of  what  he  called  "the  false  and 
misleading  issue  of  prosperity."  In  his  opinion,  the  Republicans  had 
claimed  so  often  to  be  the  architects  of  good  times  that  the  Democrats 
were  associated  with  bad  times.73  Yet,  if  no  Democrat  could  have  won 
against  Hoover  in  1928,  it  is  surely  true  that  no  Protestant  Democrat 
could  have  lost  five  Southern  states.  The  South  had  stood  firm  in  the 
Democratic  dtbdcles  of  1920  and  1924.  It  was  religion  and  the  South- 
ern churches  that  broke  the  Solid  South  in  1928. 

Yet  the  victory  of  the  evangelical  churches  and  the  drys  in  1928  put 
their  cause  in  peril.  By  taking  a  presidential  election  to  be  a  referen- 
dum on  prohibition,  they  put  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  in  jeopardy 
on  the  day  when  the  presidential  election  should  go  against  them. 
Moreover,  this  major  incursion  by  the  Protestant  churches  into  politics 
brought  to  a  head  the  old  American  resentment  against  clerical  med- 
dling in  lay  affairs.  How  could  the  Protestants  maintain  that  they  were 
attacking  Smith  to  keep  the  Pope  from  dictating  American  policy 
when  they  themselves  were  denying  the  separation  of  church  and 

The  candidacy  of  Smith  had  forced  the  Anti-Saloon  League  into  a 
policy  of  what  appeared  to  be  religious  bigotry  and  partisan  politics. 
The  League  had  always  had  tenuous  relations  with  the  Roman  Catho- 
lic Church  through  the  Catholic  Total  Abstinence  Union,  and  some 

304   /THE    DRY    TREE 

Catholic  drys  voted  for  Hoover.  But  the  foulness  of  the  religious  cam- 
paign against  Smith  seemed  part  and  parcel  of  the  virulence  of  the 
dry  campaign  against  him.  Although  Senator  Simmons  could  accuse 
the  Democrats  of  hiding  behind  a  "smoke-screen  of  intolerance"  to  dis- 
guise the  real  fault  of  Smith's  wetness,  although  Clarence  True  Wilson 
and  Scott  McBride  could  call  for  a  dry  vote  against  Smith  rather  than 
a  bigot  vote,  the  fact  was  that  prohibition  and  bigotry  were  associated 
in  the  public  mind.74  Moreover,  once  the  election  was  ended,  the  drys 
claimed  that  the  result  was  a  referendum  in  favor  of  the  drys,  despite 
the  opposite  claim  of  Dr.  Nicholas  Murray  Butler.75  As  Ernest  Cher- 
rington  wrote,  the  election  was  "a  referendum  not  only  on  prohibition 
but  also  upon  the  right  of  a  President  to  use  his  office  to  secure  practi- 
cal nullification  of  the  Constitution  and  the  right  of  a  state  to  interpret 
a  provision  of  the  Constitution  to  suit  itself."76 

The  election  of  1928  seemed  to  prove  that  the  progressives  and  the 
women  still  supported  prohibition,  but  they  voted  more  for  Hoover 
and  against  Smith  than  for  the  dry  cause.  The  rural  progressive  coun- 
ties which  voted  for  La  Follette  in  1924  and  Hoover  in  1928  were  vot- 
ing for  the  Great  Engineer  and  against  the  East  Side  Irishman  from 
New  York.  Although  Mrs.  H.  W.  Peabody  might  call  prohibition 
"women's  only  issue"  and  Mrs.  Ella  Boole  might  claim  that  women 
won  the  election  for  Hoover  because  he  was  a  dry,  the  large  women's 
vote  for  Hoover  was,  in  part,  a  protest  against  the  nasty  manners  of 
Al  Smith.77  The  election  of  1928  was  not  a  popular  referendum  on  pro- 
hibition, though  it  was  held  to  be  so.  Conservatives  voted  for  the  con- 
servative candidate,  radicals  for  the  radical  candidate,  and  traditional 
Republicans  and  Democrats  stuck  to  the  parties  of  their  prejudice. 

Wet  to  the  wets  and  dry  to  the  drys,  Hoover  was  swept  to  victory 
by  a  majority  of  over  six  million  votes.  The  acute  comic  writer  of  the 
New  Republic,  Felix  Ray,  had  his  newsdealer  Elmer  Durkin  comment 
on  the  three  different  fights  going  on  at  the  same  time. 

Hoover  was  telling  the  come-ons  about  how  the  Republican  party 
had  invented  prosperity,  bank  accounts,  good  crops,  radios  and  ben- 
zine buggies.  Smith  was  shooting  the  works  on  prohibition,  water 
power,  wasteful  government  and  farm  relief.  The  rest  of  the  popula- 
tion was  talking  about  Al  —  where  he  went  to  church,  what  kind  of  a 
lid  he  wore,  what  liquids  he  took  with  his  meals,  how  he  was  born  and 
brought  up  in  Tammany  Hall  and  the  way  he  pronounced  "foist." 

In  Ray  s  opinion,  it  did  Al  Smith  no  good  that  he  was  the  Happy  War- 
rior, for  he  could  not  get  the  enemy  to  "trade  wallops."78 

The  campaign  of  1928  was  the  last  great  campaign  fought  by  the 
drys.  They  took  Hoover's  victory  as  a  referendum  in  favor  of  the 


From  New  York  World 

Eighteenth  Amendment,  and  an  approval  of  the  methods  of  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League.  Kin  Hubbard's  bootlegger  Ike  Lark  might  construe  the 
result  "as  simply  a  vote  of  confidence";79  but  the  general  feeling  was 
that  the  Great  Engineer  would  now  enforce  efficiently  a  law  that  had 
been  famous  only  for  the  amount  of  crime  and  alcoholism  that  it  had 
produced.  Hoover  would  bring  relief  and  good  administration  to  dry 
America  as  he  had  done  to  starving  Belgium.  His  propaganda  had  as- 
sured men  so. 

306   /  THE    DRY    TREE 

Although  Smith  lost  the  election,  he  totaled  the  largest  number  of 
Democratic  votes  ever  cast  Many  of  these  ballots  were  cast  by  new 
voters,  children  of  immigrant  families,  whose  numbers  were  to  provide 
the  Democrats  with  majorities  for  twenty  years.  Moreover,  it  was  not  a 
Democratic  election.  As  Will  Rogers  commented,  "Women,  Liquor, 
Tammany  Hall  — all  had  their  minor  little  contributing  factors  one 
way  or  another  in  the  total,  but  the  whole  answer  was:  We  just  didn't 
have  any  Merchandise  to  offer  the  Boys  that  would  make  *em  come 
over  on  our  side  of  the  Street."80  Depression  would  provide  for  that 
lack  of  merchandise. 

The  last  major  victory  of  the  country  over  the  city,  of  the  old  Amer- 
ica over  the  new,  was  in  the  presidential  election  of  1928,  when  the  dry 
Quaker  from  Iowa  defeated  the  wet  Roman  Catholic  from  New  York. 
But  Smith,  in  his  defeat,  pulled  the  Northern  cities  into  the  Demo- 
cratic column,  where  they  stayed.  Lippmann  noted  that  the  objections 
of  the  drys  and  the  Protestants  to  New  York  and  Tammany  were  per- 
fectly sincere.  They  helped  to  make  up  an  opposition  to  Smith  which 
was  as  authentic  and  poignant  as  his  support  by  the  immigrant  urban 
masses.  The  opposition  was  inspired  by  the  feeling  that  the  clamorous 
life  of  the  city  should  not  be  acknowledged  as  the  American  ideal.81  A 
man  with  an  East  Side  accent  and  a  brown  derby,  who  spat  frequently 
and  publicly,  should  not  be  elected  to  represent  all  America.  And  he 
was  not. 



The  Blight  of  Repeal 



The  Spreading  Change 

The  liquor  traffic  may  have  been  possible  in  the  age  of 
the  ox-cart,  but  it  is  not  possible  in  the  age  of  the  auto- 

The  Anti-Saloon  League  Yearbook,  1922 

AT  THE  VERY  time  that  the  country  defeated  the  city  by  the  pas- 
sage of  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  and  by  the  election  of  Herbert 
Hoover,  the  city  had  finally  overcome  the  country  through  technology 
and  economics.  The  city  newspapers  largely  displaced  the  country 
newspapers.  Automobiles  and  movies  and  radios  brought  the  imagined 
manners  of  the  urban  rich  to  every  village.  Again,  the  assault  of  metro- 
politan habits  on  rural  habits  increased  the  desperation  of  those  who 
loved  the  old  country  ways.  But  they  could  not  keep  back  the  new  car- 
riers of  change,  which  helped  to  destroy  prohibition  along  with  the 
isolation  of  the  small  town. 


FOR  MORE  than  forty  years  before  the  passage  of  the  Eighteenth 
Amendment,  the  press  of  the  United  States  was  flooded  with  articles 
and  editorials  alleging  that  alcohol  was  the  chief  cause  of  poverty, 
crime,  disease,  and  insanity.  Paid  advertisements  were  the  only  means 
of  representing  the  wet  point  of  view.  Yet,  by  1930,  the  position  was 
exactly  the  reverse.1  The  change  of  the  popular  press  both  led  and 
reflected  the  change  of  the  American  people  in  their  attitude  toward 

In  a  series  of  studies  made  at  the  close  of  national  prohibition,  this 
change  was  carefully  calculated  through  samplings  taken  from  middle- 
class  magazines.  In  1905,  out  of  175  articles  on  prohibition  taken  from 
the  Atlantic,  the  Arena,  the  Independent,  the  Review  of  Reviews,  the 
Survey,  and  the  World  Today,  not  one  article  was  unfavorable  to  the 
dry  cause.  Out  of  a  larger  sampling  taken  in  1915,  which  also  included 


310   /THE    BLIGHT     OF     REPEAL 

the  Ladies'  Home  Journal,  the  Living  Age,  the  Nation,  the  New  Re- 
public, the  North  American  Review,  and  the  Outlook,  articles  ap- 
proved of  prohibition  in  a  ratio  of  nearly  twenty  to  one.  By  1920,  the 
ratio  had  shrunk  to  less  than  four  to  three  on  the  dry  side.  By  1930, 
with  the  addition  of  Harper's,  Collier's,  the  Commonweal,  and  World's 
Work,  the  articles  favoring  prohibition  had  decreased  until  they  com- 
pared with  wet  articles  in  a  ratio  of  less  than  one  dry  article  to  two 
wet  pieces.  A  parallel  sampling  showed  a  less  dramatic  shift  from  a 
dry  to  a  wet  attitude  in  these  magazines;  but  if  the  two  studies  are 
taken  together  it  can  be  said  that  opposition  to  prohibition  in  Ameri- 
can bourgeois  magazines  increased  five  times  between  1914  and  1931, 
while  attitudes  towards  drinking  also  reversed  themselves  to  a  lesser 
degree.  Similar  magazine  studies  showed  a  switch  from  religious  sanc- 
tions to  scientific  sanctions  in  this  period,  whereas  the  years  from  1925 
to  1928  were  the  peak  of  articles  against  religion  and  in  favor  of  sexual 

A  like  process  took  place  in  the  newspapers  of  the  country.  The  dry 
monopoly  of  favorable  comment  at  the  beginning  of  the  century  gave 
way  to  an  increasing  wet  attack  throughout  the  twenties.  While  Purley 
A.  Baker  could  claim  justly  that  more  than  half  of  the  nation's  secular 
press  supported  the  drys  in  1907,  twenty  years  later  hardly  a  major 
newspaper  praised  them.8  This  change  was  partially  due  to  the  chang- 
ing organization  and  techniques  of  the  popular  press  of  the  day,  but  it 
was  also  due  to  the  methods  used  to  influence  the  press  by  wets  and 

The  drys  had  early  set  up  methods  of  swinging  newspapers  to  their 
side.  They  pioneered  the  clipsheet,  which  gave  newspaper  editors  a 
cheap  source  of  news,  although  the  news  itself  was  biased.  They  cir- 
cularized a  large  number  of  Tboiler-plate"  articles,  ready  for'  printing, 
which  cut  down  costs  in  small-town  newspapers.  They  would  send, 
free  of  charge,  information  and  statistics  and  "fill-ins"  to  sympathetic 
dry  editors.  They  would  encourage  dry  manufacturers  to  advertise 
only  in  dry  newspapers;  indeed,  half  the  newspapers  of  the  country,  in- 
cluding the  New  York  Tribune,  the  Chicago  Herald,  and  the  Boston 
Record,  would  not  accept  liquor  advertisements  in  1912  out  of  convic- 
tion and  fear  of  losing  dry  customers.4  Moreover,  the  drys  would  buy 
full-page  advertisements  before  elections  to  make  converts  for  their 
cause.  Charles  Stelzle  ran  a  "Strengthen  America  Campaign"  to  put 
across  the  Eighteenth  Amendment,  which  used  full-page  advertise- 
ments in  the  Saturday  Evening  Post,  the  Literary  Digest,  the  Inde- 
pendent, the  Outlook,  and  the  labor  press,  while  a  mass  of  articles  was 
supplied  without  fee  to  those  editors  who  would  print  such  propaganda. 
The  campaign  was  budgeted  at  a  cost  of  a  million  dollars.5 


The  brewers  and  distillers  probably  spent  more  than  the  drys  on 
subsidizing  the  popular  press  and  on  buying  advertising  space  and 
editors.  But  their  money  was  not  placed  wisely.  Too  much  money  was 
spent  on  the  converted,  on  the  foreign-language  press.  Too  little  money 
went  into  the  popular  magazines  and  uncommitted  newspapers,  except 
into  ill-judged  attempts  to  buy  control  of  them.6  But  once  national  pro- 
hibition went  into  effect,  the  Association  Against  the  Prohibition 
Amendment  increasingly  adopted  the  methods  of  press  influence  of  the 
drys.  Articles  were  written  and  placed  by  writers  who  were  ostensibly 
impartial  but  who  were  in  reality  supporting  repeal  for  a  fee  paid  by 
the  Association.  Statistics,  clipsheets,  pamphlets,  and  free  copy  were 
supplied  to  any  newspaper  on  demand.  Similar  means  of  exerting 
pressure  on  editors  through  advertisements  were  employed.  There  was  a 
significant  letter  from  Pierre  S.  Du  Pont,  the  head  of  the  Association, 
to  a  leader  of  the  wets  in  Philadelphia,  which  asked  him  to  point  out 
to  the  officials  of  the  Saturday  Evening  Post  that  the  magazine  was 
"intimately  related  to  both  the  General  Motors  Corporation  and  the 
Du  Pont  Company,"  and  that,  as  the  aim  of  the  paper  was  "to  promote 
the  welfare  of  the  people  of  the  United  States/'  the  Du  Fonts  hoped 
the  paper  would  join  them  "in  a  move  toward  better  things  with  re- 
spect to  the  manufacture  and  sale  of  alcoholic  beverages."7  By  such 
indirect  pressure,  large  sections  of  the  press  were  swung  over  to  the 
wet  cause,  although  a  few  newspapers,  such  as  those  of  Frank  Gan- 
nett, remained  dry  to  the  end.  A  dry  survey  in  1931  found  that  the  cir- 
culation of  wet  newspapers  outnumbered  that  of  dry  newspapers  by 
two  to  one.8 

The  propaganda  techniques  and  economic  pressures  used  to  win 
over  the  press  were  developed  by  the  drys  and  used  against  them  by 
the  wets.  For  most  of  the  moneyed  men  changed  in  their  attitude  toward 
prohibition  and  took  many  of  the  newspapers  and  magazines  with 
them.  It  was  a  case  of  the  persuaders  persuaded.  Also  the  change  of 
the  progressives  and  men  of  science  in  their  attitude  toward  alcohol, 
and  the  realization  that  the  evils  of  prohibition  were  as  great  or  greater 
than  those  of  the  saloon,  were  mirrored  in  the  popular  articles  of  the 
time.  While,  in  1917,  the  American  Magazine  would  reprint  an  article 
of  Booth  Tarkington's  on  how  he  gave  up  liquor,  and  Cleveland  MoflFat 
in  McClure's  would  warn  girls  not  to  give  themselves  even  to  moder- 
ate drinkers  because  their  procreative  powers  were  seriously  impaired, 
by  1920  the  articles  had  already  begun  to  switch  to  the  "Collapse  of 
Prohibition,"  and  by  1930,  to  sophisticated  and  witty  pieces  like  "Have 
a  Little  Drinkie."9  The  warnings  of  the  muckrakers  about  the  evils  of 
the  saloons  gave  way  to  the  accusing  farragoes  of  a  Mencken  and  the 
spiky  witticisms  of  the  New  Yorker  or  Vanity  Fair,  whose  solution  to 

312   /THE    BLIGHT    OF    REPEAL 

the  problem  of  policing  the  Canadian  border  was  not  to  erect  a 
barbed-wire  fence  there,  but  to  erect  a  brass  rail.10 

The  metamorphosis  of  the  American  press  itself  did  not  help  the 
dry  cause.  It  was  an  age  of  the  growing  chain  newspapers,  competing 
savagely  with  each  other  and  pushing  local  newspapers  to  the  wall.  In 
the  war  for  increased  circulation,  quality  and  truth  suffered  and  sensa- 
tionalism and  "human  interest"  stories  gained,  until  some  newspapers 
all  but  excluded  legitimate  news.  The  success  of  the  tabloid  New  York 
Daily  News  in  the  twenties  led  to  many  imitations  of  its  exploitation  of 
melodrama  and  photographs;  the  success  of  True  Story  and  True  Con- 
fessions  in  the  magazine  field  forced  similar  changes.  Prohibition  was 
marvelous  copy  for  such  presentation,  in  the  large  headlines  and  scare 
lettering  developed  by  the  war.  Rumrunners  and  speak-easy  proprie- 
tors and  gangsters  were  interesting  people  and  sensational  stuff.  Social- 
ites caught  in  a  raid  made  for  good  pictures  and  exposes.  And  the 
small  man  tried  for  brewing  his  own  beer  or  carrying  a  hip  flask  always 
brought  out  mass  sympathy  for  the  underdog.11  Moreover,  the/con- 
temporary crimes  of  Leopold  and  Loeb,  of  Hall  and  Mills,  and  of  Ruth 
Snyder,  the  sex  dramas  of  Fatty  Arbuckle  and  "Daddy"  Browning,  the 
gay  escapades  of  Mayor  Jimmy  Walker  and  Big  Bill  Thompson  —  all 
this  "series  of  tremendous  trifles"  provided  that  mixture  of  lawlessness 
and  gaity,  sex  and  crime,  which  cast  the  artificial  glamour  of  the  "jazz 
age"  over  an  era  in  which  many  evils  were  excused  on  the  grounds  of 
a  false,  but  glittering,  scale  of  values.  When  Elinor  Glyn  was  asked 
which  way  Hollywood  would  go  after  the  notorious  scandals  of  the 
early  twenties,  she  answered  for  a  whole  national  ethos  which  was  to 
endure  until  the  depression,  "Whatever  will  bring  in  the  most  money 
will  happen."12 

With  such  a  vogue  for  glamour  and  sensation,  the  dry  cause  was 
bound  to  suffer.  The  patriots  of  the  war  became  the  patsys  of  the 
peace.  They  had  won  the  Eighteenth  Amendment  at  a  time  when  news 
of  war  crowded  interest  in  prohibition  to  the  back  pages.  But,  as 
Mabel  Walker  Willebrandt  wrote,  the  moment  that  prohibition  went 
into  effect,  the  subject  became,  for  the  first  time,  "big  news"  for  the 
city  press.13  And  the  city  press  was  becoming  more  and  more  the  press 
of  all  America.  Between  1925  and  1930,  rural  subscriptions  to  city 
newspapers  doubled.14  And  the  city  press  grew  wetter  and  wetter.  In 
New  York,  the  Times  and  the  Herald  and  the  World  were  always  op- 
posed to  prohibition,  although  the  World  died  in  the  depression  before 
the  repeal  came  which  it  had  advocated.  The  Hearst  chain  switched  to 
support  of  modification  of  the  law  to  allow  the  sale  of  light  wines  and 
beer,  although  it  ran  a  competition  in  1929  for  plans  to  tighten  up  en- 
forcement. In  Chicago,  four  of  the  five  newspapers,  including  the  influ- 


ential  Tribune,  were  wet  in  1930.  This  wetness  of  the  city  press  repre- 
sented its  wish  to  appeal  to  the  new  market  of  the  semiliterate  workers 
as  well  as  its  exploitation  of  the  color  stories  of  the  time.  For  the  popu- 
lar newspapers  were  little  better  or  little  worse  than  the  tastes  and 
opinions  of  the  mass  of  their  readers.  If  the  drys  attacked  the  wet 
press  as  a  conspiracy  against  the  people,  they  were  really  attacking 
the  city  majority  as  a  conspiracy  against  the  country  minority. 

Still,  wet  propaganda  could  be  dismissed  as  mere  lies,  as  could  dry 
propaganda.  What  was  difficult  to  dismiss  was  the  evidence  collected 
by  the  polls  of  the  Literary  Digest.  In  three  sensational  polls,  which 
were  copied  by  small  polls  conducted  by  other  papers,  the  Digest 
showed  the  slipping  of  prohibition  sentiment  A  poll  in  1922  showed 
that,  of  nine  hundred  thousand  owners  of  telephones  who  answered  the 
pollsters,  two-fifths  supported  modification  and  one-fifth  repeal.  In 
1930,  five  million  owners  of  automobiles  and  telephones  gave  a  ma- 
jority for  repeal  or  modification  in  every  state  in  America  except  for 
five.  In  the  poll  of  1932,  all  the  states  except  Kansas  and  North  Caro- 
lina gave  a  majority  for  outright  repeal.  An  exhaustive  analysis  of  the 
Literary  Digest  polling  techniques  revealed  a  bias  in  favor  of  the 
wets.15  But,  even  if  the  margin  of  wet  sentiment  was  exaggerated,  it 
nevertheless  had  received  the  accolade  of  the  great  American  creed 
that  a  fact  is  always  true  as  long  as  it  is  supported  by  figures.  More- 
over, the  prestige  of  the  Literary  Digest  was  extremely  high  through- 
out the  country  until  it  dug  its  own  grave  by  predicting  the  victory  in 
1936  of  Alfred  Landon  over  President  Franklin  D.  Roosevelt. 

The  dry  leaders  became  so  incensed  by  the  attitude  of  the  press  that 
they  proposed  to  establish  a  chain  of  daily  newspapers  which  would, 
in  Bishop  Cannon's  words,  "place  the  truth  and  the  moral  betterment  of 
the  people  above  the  cash  box/'  Cannon  wanted  a  "stream  of  clean, 
properly  filtered  news"  to  be  substituted  for  the  "sewage  which  pours 
into  our  homes  almost  daily  from  the  columns  of  many  of  the  present- 
day  secular  dailies,  weeklies  and  monthlies."  The  chain  was  to  preach 
the  great  benefits  of  prohibition  in  place  of  the  misrepresentation  of 
the  popular  press,  which  preferred  "to  picture  all  the  boys  and  girls 
with  hip  flasks,  daring  bootleggers  outwitting  enforcement  officers, 
or  tyrannical. officers  murdering  innocent  law  violators."16  The  news- 
paper chain  was  never  set  up,  and  its  success  would  have  been  doubt- 
ful. For  the  formula  of  success  at  that  time  was  sensationalism,  and 
the  press  was  not  responsible  for  the  evils  of  prohibition  which  it 
exploited  in  its  reports. 

-Indeed,  there  was  much  good  in  the  publicity  which  the  newspapers 
gave  to  the  gangsters  of  the  time.  As  John  Landesco  said  in  his  study 
of  crime  in  Chicago,  "If  it  were  not  for  the  newspapers,  gangdom  and 

314   /THE    BLIGHT    OF    REPEAL 

its  political  henchmen  and  protectors  would  have  stolen  this  town/'17 
James  O'Donnell  Bennett's  exposure  of  the  local  gangsters  in  the  Chi- 
cago Tribune  was  so  salutary  that  it  was  reprinted  in  full  in  the  Wick- 
ersham  Report.18  Indeed,  the  massive  publicity  given  to  Al  Capone 
was  really  the  reason  for  his  downfall.  He  became  too  much  of  a  threat 
to  be  ignored  by  the  Department  of  Justice.  Herbert  Hoover  made 
himself  personally  responsible  for  his  imprisonment.19*  Other  and 
wiser  gangsters,  such  as  the  New  York  racketeer  Owney  Madden,  had 
an  unholy  fear  of  the  attention  of  newsmen.  As  the  city  editor  of  the 
New  York  Herald  Tribune  wrote,  it  was  a  sure  sign  of  doom  to  the 
Maddens  of  the  world  when  they  began  to  get  too  much  publicity.  All 
publicity,  to  them,  was  bad  publicity.20  Rackets  did  not  flourish  in  the 

The  fact  that  much  of  the  city  press  dramatized  the  evils  of  enforce- 
ment did  not  prevent  them  from  dramatizing  the  heroes  of  the  en- 
forcement service.  Izzy  Einstein  and  Moe  Smith,  who  made  over  four 
thousand  arrests  and  confiscated  more  than  fifteen  million  dollars' 
worth  of  liquor  in  their  brief  careers,  probably  made  the  front  pages 
more  often  than  any  other  personages  of  their  time  except  for  the 
President  and  the  Prince  of  Wales.21  Indeed,  their  dismissal  in  No- 
vember, 1925,  seems  to  have  been  due  to  the  offended  dignity  of  the 
heads  of  the  Prohibition  Bureau,  who  thought  that  Izzy  and  Moe  cor- 
ralled too  much  of  the  good  publicity  which  should  have  gone  to  the 
rest  of  the  Bureau.  Moreover,  even  a  wet  newspaper  such  as  the  New 
York  Times  was  scrupulously  fair  in  printing  the  dry  point  of  view, 
running  for  months  the  writings  of  Roy  Haynes  and  Wayne  Wheeler 
and  Mabel  Willebrandt.22  Indeed,  there  was  so  much  favorable  dry 
publicity  in  the  wet  press  that  Mencken  was  put  into  a  rage  in  1927, 
writing  that,  although  every  reporter  in  America  knew  of  the  failure  of 
prohibition  enforcement,  it  was  rare  that  an  American  newspaper  came 
out  "without  a  gaudy  story  on  its  first  page,  rehearsing  all  the  old  lies 
under  new  and  blacker  headlines."23 

The  popular  press  of  America  had  much  to  do  with  the  passage  and 
repeal  of  prohibition.  In  doing  so,  it  both  mirrored  and  directed  the 
thoughts  of  the  majority  of  Americans,  as  well  as  of  the  dry  and  wet 
pressure  groups.  The  extending  influence  of  the  city  press  over  the 
country  areas  of  America  broke  down  that  isolation  in  which  rural 
prejudice  and  faith  could  support  prohibition  without  doubt  or  con- 
trary argument.  If  the  drys  profited  from  the  trend  in  America  towards 

*  Hoover,  while  writing  of  Al  Capone,  thought  that  "it  was  ironic  that  a  man 
gudty  of  inciting  hundreds  of  murders,  in  some  of  which  he  took  a  personal  hand, 
had  to  be  punished  merely  for  failure  to  pay  taxes  on  the  money  he  had  made 
by  murder." 

The  Hydra-Headed  Monster 

Washington,  D.C.,  Herald 

the  national  control  of  social  problems,  they  were  attacked  by  the  in- 
struments of  that  control,  the  improved  communications  of  their  land 
The  prohibitionists  wished  to  make  the  United  States  into  a  large 
Kansas.  But  as  the  Boston  Transcript  commented,  to  do  so,  they  would 
have  to  imitate  Kansas  and  abolish  all  cities  of  more  than  fifty  thou- 
sand people"  Instead,  the  large  cities  engulfed  the  small  towns. 


Ar  TOE  close  of  the  twenties,  Robert  Binkley  pointed  out  that  the  sex 

dZ^ *  r?  ?  I*"0011 centuries  of  ^uor' but  had  broken 

down  wrth  two  decades  of  motoring.  The  car  was  the  chief  cause  of 
stnfe  between  cbldren  and  parents,  between  husband  and  wife  It 
had [increased  crime  and  wasteful  spending.  It  had  killed  tens  of  thou- 
sands of  people  It  had  taken  away  the  American  "birthright  of  health  " 
men  wrSr,,  ******  «*  habit-forming.  Millions  of  healthy 

Zm^lS7     again-  ^  *^ had  *e  *y- not  F°hib^ 

automobiles?  The  answer  was  that  cars  were  useful,  and  that  thev 
were  kept  under  control  by  the  responsibility  of  drivers,  by  compuT 

316   /THE    BLIGHT    OF    REPEAL 

sory  insurance,  by  licenses  and  by  laws.  Could  not  the  same  be  done 
for  liquor?25 

The  same  was  not  done  for  liquor.  Imperfectly  regulated,  it  deluged 
America  again  after  1933.  But  the  automobiles  rolled  on,  wheel  after 
wheel,  despite  the  efforts  made  to  control  them.  They  were  the  car- 
riers of  change,  along  with  the  motion  pictures  and  the  radios.  They 
broke  into  the  old  rural  isolation  and  the  pockets  of  prohibition  which 
spotted  the  land.  They  brought  the  manners  of  the  cities  into  the  ham- 
lets of  America.  They  spread  wet  propaganda  throughout  the  villages. 
If  prohibition  put  more  money  in  the  hands  of  a  workingman  so  that 
he  could  afford  to  buy  a  car,  that  car  gave  him  the  means  to  go  where 
liquor  was  to  be  found  and  to  bring  that  liquor  back  to  his  own  home. 
Without  the  carriers  of  change,  the  dry  argument  that  a  sober  nation 
was  necessary  to  meet  the  demands  of  a  technological  revolution 
would  have  been  futile.  But  with  the  carriers  of  change,  the  enforce- 
ment of  prohibition  became  impossible.  The  new  devices  helped  to 
bring  about  the  boom,  which  was  cla